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Statins Fight Alzheimer's Disease

Cholesterol Drugs Reduce Dangerous Substances in the Brain
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WebMD Health News

April 21, 2003 -- Cholesterol-lowering statin drugs could help prevent Alzheimer's disease, new research shows.

Preliminary findings of this potential new treatment appear in the April issue of the Archives of Neurology.

In the study, a group of Texas researchers build on previous research showing that statins used to treat cholesterol imbalances have reduced the risk of Alzheimer's disease. However, little has been known about the mechanism through which this happens.

This group of researchers speculates that statins lower the amount of cholesterol byproducts and dangerous proteins in the brain that are thought to contribute to Alzheimer's disease. Recent studies have indicated that blood levels of these substances are higher in people with Alzheimer's disease and that these levels could be an indication of brain cell death.

In their study, the Texas researchers examined the effects of three statin drugs and another lipid-lowering drug (niacin) on blood levels of cholesterol and these proteins in patients with Alzheimer's disease who had had no history of heart disease.

During the six-week study, 44 patients took one drug -- either a statin or niacin. Their blood was measured at the start, periodically throughout the study, and at the end.

Those taking statins had 21% lower levels of the cholesterol byproduct and 25% lower total cholesterol, reports Gloria Lena Vega, PhD, of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. Those taking niacin only had 10% reduced levels of the cholesterol byproduct.

Further studies are needed to determine if long-term statin therapy would slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease, writes Vega.

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