Statins may slow down your brain

February 26th, 2009 - 4:08 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Feb 26 (IANS) New research suggests that cholesterol-reducing drugs known as statins may lessen brain function and make you less smart.
Yeon-Kyun Shin, biophysics professor at Iowa State University, said his study shows that drugs that inhibit the liver from making cholesterol may also inhibit the brain from making cholesterol, vital to its efficient functioning.

“If you deprive cholesterol from the brain, then you directly affect the machinery that triggers the release of neurotransmitters,” said Shin.

“Neurotransmitters affect the data-processing and memory functions. In other words - how smart you are and how well you remember things.”

Cholesterol is one of the building blocks of cells and is made in the liver. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) - often referred to as bad cholesterol - is cholesterol in the bloodstream from the liver on the way to cells in the body.

High-density lipoprotein (HDL) - so-called good cholesterol - is cholesterol being removed from cells. Too much LDL going to cells and not enough being removed can lead to cholesterol deposits and hardening of the cells.

“If you have too much cholesterol, your internal machinery is not going to be able to take away enough cholesterol from the cells,” said Shin. “Then cells harden and you can get these deposits.”

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

It is the function of reducing the synthesis of cholesterol that Shin’s study shows may also harm brain function, said an Iowa press release.

“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,” said Shin.

Shin’s findings is slated for publication in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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