Thursday, October 29, 2009

Statins have dramatic effect on the brain

A study in the October Journal of Lipid Research finds that statin drugs can have profoundly different effects on brain cells -both beneficial and detrimental.

These findings reinforce the idea that great care should be taken when deciding on the dosage and type of statin given to individuals, particularly the elderly.

John Albers and colleagues compared the effects of two commercially used statins, simvastatin and pravastatin, on two different types of brain cells, neurons and astrocytes (support cells that help repair damage). By directly applying the drugs to cells as opposed to administering them to animals, they could eliminate differences in the drugs' ability to cross the blood-brain barrier as a reason for any differing effects.

Albers and colleagues looked at the expression of genes related to neurodegeneration, and found that indeed, despite using biologically equivalent drug concentrations, differences were seen both between cells, and between drugs; for example, simvastatin reduced the expression of the cholesterol transporter ABCA1 by approximately 80% in astrocytes, while pravastatin lowered expression by only around 50%. Another interesting difference was that while both statins decreased expression of the Tau protein -associated with Alzheimer's disease -- in astrocytes, they increased Tau expression in neurons; pravastatin also increased the expression of another Alzheimer's hallmark, amyloid precursor protein (APP).

While increased levels of these two proteins may account for potential risks of disease, Albers and colleagues also note that large decreases in cholesterol proteins like ABCA1 should be considered. Brain cholesterol levels tend to be reduced in elderly people, and in such individuals the long-term effects of statin therapy could lead to transient or permanent cognitive impairment.

Bonnie - this should make anyone considering or currently taking statins think twice. As we have alluded numerous times, cognitive impairment is a possibility in those taking statins.

Does it still seem plausible to get most of the adult population on statin medication as Big Pharma is trying to do? Especially when there are other options for healthy lipids along with diet and lifestyle modification. We found this chart on

Medicine-------Lower Triglycerides------Raise HDL-------Lower LDL
Niacin-------------20-50 percent---------------15-35 percent----5-25 percent
Fish Oil Pills---25-30 percent----------------little effect--------little effect
Fibric Acids----7-30 percent-----------------1-20 percent-----5-25 percent
Statins------------7-30 percent-----------------5-15 percent-----8-55 percent

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