High levels of ÛÏgoodÛ cholesterol and low levels of ÛÏbadÛ cholesterol are correlated with lower levels of the amyloid plaque deposition in the brain that is a hallmark ofåÊAlzheimerÛªs disease, UC DavisåÊresearchers have found. ÛÏOur study shows thatåÊbothåÊhigher levels of HDLåÊÛÓ good ÛÓåÊand lower levels of LDLåÊÛÓåÊbad ÛÓåÊcholesterol in the bloodstream are associated with lower levels of amyloidåÊplaque depositsåÊin the brain,”åÊsaid Bruce Reed, lead study author and associate director of the UC Davis AlzheimerÛªs Disease Center. ÛÏUnhealthy patterns of cholesterol could be directly causing the higher levels of amyloid known to contribute to AlzheimerÛªs, in the same way that such patterns promote heart disease,Û he said. The relationship between elevated cholesterol and increased risk of AlzheimerÛªs disease has been known for some time, but the current study is the first to specifically link cholesterol to amyloid deposits in living humanåÊstudy participants, Reed said. The study, ÛÏAssociations Between Serum Cholesterol Levels and Cerebral Amyloidosis,Û is published in JAMA Neurology. Charles DeCarli, director of the AlzheimerÛªs Disease Center and an author of the study, said it is a wake-up call that, just as people can influence their late-life brain health by limiting vascular brain injuryåÊthrough controlling their blood pressure, the same is true of getting a handle on their serum cholesterol levels. ÛÏIf you have an LDL above 100 or an HDL that is less than 40, even if youÛªre taking a statin drug, you want to make sure that you are getting those numbers into alignment,Û DeCarli said. ÛÏYou have to get the HDL up and the LDL down.Û ÛÏThis study provides a reason to certainly continue cholesterol treatment in people who are developing memory loss, regardless of concerns regarding theiråÊcardiovascular health,”åÊsaid Reed, a professor in the UC Davis Department of Neurology. ÛÏIt also suggests a method of lowering amyloid levels in people who are middle aged, when such build-up is just starting,”åÊhe said. “If modifying cholesterol levels in the brain early in life turns out to reduce amyloid deposits late in life,åÊwe could potentially make a significant difference in reducing the prevalence of AlzheimerÛªs, a goal of an enormous amount of research and drug development effort.Û The studyÛªs other authors are Sylvia Villeneuve and William Jagust of UC Berkeley and Wendy Mack and Helena C. Chui of the University of Southern California.
The UC Davis Alzheimer’s Disease Center is one of only 27 research centers designated by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Aging. For more information, visit alzheimer.ucdavis.edu.