Low Cholesterol and Violent Crime

Published in: Journal of Psychiatric Research, v. 39, 2000, p. 301-309

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 1999

by Beatrice A. Golomb, Hakan Stattin, Sarnoff Mednick

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BACKGROUND: Community cohort studies and meta-analyses of randomized trials have shown a relation between low or lowered cholesterol and death by violence (homicide, suicide, accident); in primates, cholesterol reduction has been linked to increased behavioral acts of aggression (Kaplan J, Manuck S. The effects of fat and cholesterol on aggressive behaviour in monkeys. Psychosom. Med 1990;52:226-7; Kaplan J, Shively C, Fontenot D, Morgan T, Howell S, Manuck S et al. Demonstration of an association among dietary cholesterol, central serotonergic activity, and social behaviour in monkeys. Psychosom. Med 1994;56:479- 84.). In this study the authors test for the first time whether cholesterol level is related to commission of violent crimes against others in a large community cohort. METHODS: The authors merged one-time cholesterol measurements on 79,777 subjects enrolled in a health screening project in Varmland, Sweden with subsequent police records for arrests for violent crimes in men and women aged 24-70 at enrollment; and with information on covariates. They performed a nested case control comparison of cholesterol in violent criminals -- defined as those with two or more crimes of violence against others -- to cholesterol in nonoffenders matched on age, enrollment year, sex, education and alcohol, using variable-ratio matching, with a nonparametric sign test. RESULTS: One hundred individuals met criteria for criminal violence. Low cholesterol (below the median) was strongly associated with criminal violence in unadjusted analysis (Men: risk ratio 1.94, P= 0.002; all subjects risk ratio 2.32, P < 0.001). Age emerged as a strong confounder. Adjusting for covariates using a matching procedure, violent criminals had significantly lower cholesterol than others identical in age, sex, alcohol indices and education, using a nonparametric sign test (P=0.012 all subjects; P=0.035 men). CONCLUSIONS: Adjusting for other factors, low cholesterol is associated with increased subsequent criminal violence.

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