Cholesterol To Treat Alzheimers
December 31, 2013

Using ‘Good’ And ‘Bad’ Cholesterol To Fight Alzheimer’s Disease

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

Researchers writing in the online journal JAMA Neurology said they found a new approach to lowering the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease. University of California (UC), Davis researchers discovered that high levels of 'good' cholesterol and low levels of 'bad' cholesterol are correlated with lower levels of amyloid plaque disposition in the brain, which is an indicator of Alzheimer’s disease.

“Our study shows that both higher levels of HDL — good — and lower levels of LDL — bad — cholesterol in the bloodstream are associated with lower levels of amyloid plaque deposits in the brain," said Bruce Reed, lead study author and associate director of the UC Davis Alzheimer’s Disease Center. “Unhealthy patterns of cholesterol could be directly causing the higher levels of amyloid known to contribute to Alzheimer’s, in the same way that such patterns promote heart disease.”

Scientists have known about the relationship between elevated cholesterol and increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, but the latest study is the first to link cholesterol to amyloid deposits in living human study participants.

A level of 60 milligrams (mg) of cholesterol per deciliter (dL) or higher is best for good cholesterol, while levels of 70 mg/dl or lower is recommended for people at risk of heart disease. Charles DeCarli, director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Center and an author of the study, said its a wake up call that people can reduce the risk of this disease by getting a handle on their serum cholesterol levels.

“If you have an LDL above 100 or an HDL that is less than 40, even if you’re taking a statin drug, you want to make sure that you are getting those numbers into alignment,” DeCarli said in a statement. “You have to get the HDL up and the LDL down.”

The study included 74 volunteers 70 years and older who were recruited from California stroke clinics, support groups, senior facilities and the Alzheimer’s Disease Center. Three of the individuals in the study had been diagnosed with mild dementia, while 33 had mild cognitive impairment and 33 were normal. Researchers performed PET scans on the individuals to look at their amyloid levels.

“This study provides a reason to certainly continue cholesterol treatment in people who are developing memory loss, regardless of concerns regarding their cardiovascular health," said Reed, a professor in the UC Davis Department of Neurology.

“It also suggests a method of lowering amyloid levels in people who are middle aged, when such build-up is just starting. If modifying cholesterol levels in the brain early in life turns out to reduce amyloid deposits late in life, we could potentially make a significant difference in reducing the prevalence of Alzheimer’s, a goal of an enormous amount of research and drug development effort.”