Cholesterol: Protection Against Depression in Pregnancy?
Now about a decade in to undoing our industrial food-induced fat phobia, we have the first study to correlate low HDL cholesterol with depression during pregnancy. In a study entitled, “HDL-cholesterol concentrations are inversely associated with Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale scores during pregnancy: Results from a Brazilian cohort study“, the authors followed a prospective cohort of 238 pregnant women at the 5th–13th, 20th–26th and 30th–36th weeks of gestation. They found that depressive symptoms, as measured by the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS), were inversely correlated with blood levels of HDL cholesterol. There is a literature supporting the role of cholesterol, a primary component of cell membranes in a brain that is 60% fat by dry weight, in depression. Cholesterol also happens to be a precursor to sex hormones, vital for vitamin D physiology, and bile acid production.
One well-known rodent study has substantiated the notion that maternal donation of macronutrients to the fetus can be at the expense of her own nutrient balance (aka, she can lose her own brain fat to donate to the baby). Fats including naturally-occurring omega 3, 6s, 9s, cholesterol, and saturated fats all have a place in an optimal pregnancy. Get more preconception dietary tips here.
A shocking finding in this study was an 18% rate of suicidality, suggesting that women are struggling at a time when they are expected to feel blissful. Could this be related to unmanaged stress perceptions, poor nutrient intake, toxic environmental exposures, dietary antigens like gluten and dairy, and even a loss of connection to the vital experience of conception, gestation, and birth thanks to a paternalistic medicalized obstetrical system? This is why we must look at the whole woman, in her life context, and optimize variables that serve both her wellness, and the baby’s.
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