One might ask, what do statin drugs have to do with the brain or dementia? The brain is the largest user of cholesterol in the body. Cholesterol is essential for normal brain development. Almost every cell in the body needs cholesterol. Yet, doctors think that cholesterol is a biomarker for future heart attacks. Half the people who die of cardiovascular issues have normal cholesterol levels. How can a marker for disease only be good half the time?
Our bodies make cholesterol. When we eat foods high in cholesterol, the body produces less. When we avoid foods containing high levels of cholesterol, the body makes more. Statin drugs shut down the body’s production of cholesterol. Cut back on cholesterol-high foods and shut down the body’s production of cholesterol, and your brain may be fertile ground for dementia in the future.
Cholesterol and the Brain
https://www.webmd.com/cholesterol-management/features/can-low-cholesterol-keep-your-brain-healthy. Increased levels of amyloid-beta plaques distinguish Alzheimer’s disease. A 2014 study done by the University of California, Davis Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center found that higher levels of LDL cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol levels were linked to having higher levels of amyloid-beta plaques in the brain. It was the first study to determine the connection between cholesterol and amyloid-beta plaques.
New Study on Cholesterol and the Brain
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/08/210813151957.htm#:~:text=Brain%20cholesterol%20regulates,brain%2C%22%20Hansen%20says. The earlier study has led to further studies on the interrelationships between the brain and cholesterol. The Scripps Research Institute will release the results this week (August 17, 2021) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
The study shows a linkage between the genetic marker APOE (apolipoprotein E) and cholesterol and amyloid-beta plaques. This linkage is the signaling (communications) of cholesterol that directly determines how much amyloid-beta gets made.
Genetic APOE Gene and Amyloid-Beta
https://www.alzdiscovery.org/cognitive-vitality/blog/what-apoe-means-for-your-health. APOE transports cholesterol around inside the brain to the tissues and cells. Until this Scripps Study, the role of cholesterol and amyloid-beta was not confirmed directly. Increased technology allows scientists to see and track the production and regulation of amyloid-beta by cholesterol.
APOE transports cholesterol to the outer membranes of neurons. Clusters of cholesterol became lipid rafts of signaling molecules that perform critical functions in the brain. The amyloid-beta protein is made from APP (amyloid precursor protein). APOE instigates the movement of APP into contact with the amyloid-beta protein. Secretases in the lipid raft cleave the amyloid precursor protein into amyloid-beta protein.
The scientists discovered that when the contact of the APP molecule and cholesterol was interrupted, the formation of amyloid-beta protein would cease. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3174086/.
When the scientists engineered experiments to test their observations further, they used laboratory animals that were engineered to overproduce amyloid-beta protein and the resulting plaque formations that occur from cleaving and aggregation.
When they shut down the APP-cholesterol connection, the production of amyloid-beta protein returned to normal levels, and amyloid-beta plaques disappeared. Additionally, the tangles of tau proteins also disappeared – another causal factor in Alzheimer’s disease.
This is a monumental step forward in understanding Alzheimer’s disease and a potential pathway that might effectively fight the progression of this disease. The brain cannot function without cholesterol. Experiments have shown a method to halt a known cause of Alzheimer’s disease. However, when doctors continue to prescribe statin drugs to reduce cholesterol levels, will that increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease? Maybe, but we do not know yet.
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