Can eating fat prevent depression?

A fascinating study earlier this year showed that rats who developed depressive symptoms after going through a period of chronic mild stress had their symptoms reversed when fed a cholesterol-rich diet. Feeding the rats a cholesterol-rich diet beforehand protected them from developing depressive symptoms when exposed to chronic mild stress.

We cannot simply extrapolate these results to humans and we need more studies to confirm these findings. However, these results certainly support observations of a correlation between cholesterol levels and depression. In particular, between HDL cholesterol and a lower incidence of depression related symptoms.

It can however,be dangerous to raise your fat intake, especially your saturated fat, without first checking with your doctor as there are some disorders such as familial hypercholesterolaemia where eating excessive fat can cause harm.

If you have always followed a low-fat diet and are experiencing a low mood, it might be wise to have a chat with your doctor to check your cholesterol levels. If your HDL is low then it may be a good idea to try to raise this and improve your cholesterol profile.

How do you raise HDL?

Studies show that it is the combination of what you eat, rather than isolated items that may be important. Saturated fats raise HDL levels but eating saturated fats in the company of simple, refined carbohydrates is metabolic suicide. Simple carbohydrates can raise LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Virgin coconut oil is a plant-based saturated fat that has been shown to improve HDL cholesterol levels (at least in rats!). If you are given the 'okay' by your doctors, you may wish to try including some virgin coconut oil in your diet. Other 'healthy' fats such as extra virgin olive oil and fatty fish may also help to bring your cholesterol profile to a better balance. It is essential to liaise with your medical doctor while you make any dietary changes to make sure your cholesterol levels are changing in the way you want them to. As your HDL levels rise and your LDL levels fall, you may notice yourself feeling happier and brighter.


This site is for discussion only and should not be used as a source of medical information. Please consult your medical doctor before making any changes to your diet, lifestyle or medications.


Sun S, Yang S, Mao Y, Jia X, Zhang Z. Reduced cholesterol is associated with the depressive-like behavior in rats through modulation of the brain 5-HT1A receptor. Lipids Health Dis. 2015 Mar 24;14:22.

Cantarelli Mda G, Tramontina AC, Leite MC, Gonçalves CA. Potential neurochemical links between cholesterol and suicidal behavior. Psychiatry Res. 2014 Dec 30;220(3):745-51.

Emet M, Yucel A, Ozcan H, Akgol Gur ST, Saritemur M, Bulut N, Gumusdere M. Female attempted suicide patients with low HDL levels are at higher risk of suicide re-attempt within the subsequent year: a clinical cohort study. Psychiatry Res. 2015 Jan 30;225(1-2):202-7.

Teofilo MM, Farias DR, Pinto Tde J, Vilela AA, Vaz Jdos S, Nardi AE, Kac G. HDL-cholesterol concentrations are inversely associated with Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale scores during pregnancy: results from a Brazilian cohort study. J Psychiatr Res. 2014 Nov;58:181-8.

Arunima S, Rajamohan T. Virgin coconut oil improves hepatic lipid metabolism in rats--compared with copra oil, olive oil and sunflower oil. Indian J Exp Biol. 2012 Nov;50(11):802-9.

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