February 24, 2009

Statins may lessen brain function

Cholesterol-reducing drugs known as statins may lessen brain function, an Iowa State University scientist suggests.

Yeon-Kyun Shin said the results of his study show that drugs that inhibit the liver from making cholesterol may also keep the brain from making cholesterol, which is vital to efficient brain function.

If you deprive cholesterol from the brain, then you directly affect the machinery that triggers the release of neurotransmitters, Shin said in a statement. Neurotransmitters affect the data-processing and memory functions. In other words -- how smart you are and how well you remember things.

If a person has too much cholesterol, the internal machinery is not going to be able to take away enough cholesterol from the cells and the cells harden, Shin said.

Cholesterol-reducing statin drugs are helpful because they keep the liver from synthesizing cholesterol so less of the substance is carried to the cells.

If you try to lower the cholesterol by taking medicine that is attacking the machinery of cholesterol synthesis in the liver, that medicine goes to the brain too. And then it reduces the synthesis of cholesterol which is necessary in the brain, Shin explained.

The study is published be published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.