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Low cholesterol levels in children predict impulsivity in young adulthood

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 December 2019

Katrin Tomson-Johanson
Division of Neuropsychopharmacology, Department of Psychology, University of Tartu, Tartu, Estonia Department of Family Medicine and Public Health, University of Tartu, Tartu, Estonia
Tanel Kaart
Chair of Animal Breeding and Biotechnology, Institute of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Sciences, Estonian University of Life Sciences, Tartu, Estonia
Raul-Allan Kiivet
Department of Family Medicine and Public Health, University of Tartu, Tartu, Estonia
Toomas Veidebaum
National Institute for Health Development, Tallinn, Estonia
Jaanus Harro*
Division of Neuropsychopharmacology, Department of Psychology, University of Tartu, Tartu, Estonia
Author for correspondence: Jaanus Harro, Email:



Severe behavioural issues such as impulsive action and suicide have since long been associated with low levels of cholesterol. While it is known that cholesterol plays a role in neural development and hence low levels of serum lipids could have long-term effects on behaviour, no longitudinal studies showed the association of serum lipids levels with impulsivity. We aimed to examine the prognostic properties of serum lipid levels during childhood and adolescence on measures of impulsivity during early adulthood in a representative birth cohort sample.


We have investigated whether serum lipid levels measured at 9, 15, 18 and 25 years of age have an association with impulsivity in 25 years old young adults. This analysis was based on data of the birth cohort representative samples of the Estonian Children Personality Behaviour and Health Study (original n = 1238). Impulsivity was self-reported with the Adaptive and Maladaptive Impulsivity Scale.


Total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol measured in boys aged 9, 15 and 18 years predicted disinhibition and thoughtlessness in 25-year-old young adults. High scores of disinhibition were associated with low total and LDL cholesterol levels in males but, while less consistently, with high total and LDL cholesterol levels in females. Cross-sectional analysis did not result in systematic outcomes.


Serum lipid levels could have an impact on the development of Maladaptive Impulsivity starting from an early age. This effect of cholesterol continues throughout adolescence into young adulthood.

Original Article
© Scandinavian College of Neuropsychopharmacology 2019

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