Analysis of short-term behavioral effects of dietary cholesterol supplementation in Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome

Elaine Tierney, Sandra K. Conley, Halima Goodwin, Forbes D. Porter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome (SLOS) is an inborn error of cholesterol synthesis due to mutations of 7-dehydrocholesterol reductase (DHCR7). DHCR7 catalyzes the reduction of 7-dehydrocholesterol (7DHC) to yield cholesterol in the final step of cholesterol biosynthesis. Phenotypically patients with SLOS have multiple malformations, cognitive deficits, and behavioral difficulties. Impaired DHCR7 activity results in the accumulation of 7DHC and frequently decreased cholesterol in blood and tissues. Dietary cholesterol supplementation has become standard therapy for SLOS, and anecdotal reports suggest rapid, marked clinical improvement of behavior problems. Although reported in the literature, beneficial behavioral effects of dietary cholesterol supplementation have not been formally documented through a randomized clinical trial. To address this we initiated a double-masked, placebo-controlled, cross-over trial to test the hypothesis that dietary cholesterol supplementation has rapid beneficial effects on behavior. Our primary outcome measure was the hyperactivity subscale of the Aberrant Behavior Checklist (ABC). Hyperactivity is a symptom that has been reported to respond rapidly to dietary cholesterol supplementation. Secondary outcome measures included the total ABC score and other ABC subscale scores. Ten subjects completed this study. Although the trial was done under conditions similar to those reported to induce marked behavioral changes in SLOS patients, we observed no differences between treatment and placebo phases. The results of this study call into question anecdotal reports supporting rapid behavioral benefits previously reported for dietary cholesterol supplementation in SLOS and underscore the need for a larger placebo-controlled trial.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)91-95
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Medical Genetics, Part A
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2010


  • Aberrant behavior checklist
  • Cholesterol
  • DHCR7
  • RSH syndrome
  • Randomized-controlled clinical trial
  • SLOS
  • Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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