Dec. 30, 2013 —
Science Daily/University of California - Davis Health System
High levels of "good" cholesterol and low levels of "bad" cholesterol are correlated with lower levels of the amyloid plaque deposition in the brain that is a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease, in a pattern that mirrors the relationship between good and bad cholesterol in cardiovascular disease, UC Davis researchers have found.
"Our study shows that both higher levels of HDL -- good -- and lower levels of LDL -- bad -- cholesterol in the bloodstream are associated with lower levels of amyloid plaque deposits in the brain," said Bruce Reed, lead study author and associate director of the UC Davis Alzheimer's Disease Center.
The relationship between elevated cholesterol and increased risk of Alzheimer's disease has been known for some time, but the current study is the first to specifically link cholesterol to amyloid deposits in living human study participants, Reed said.
"Unhealthy patterns of cholesterol could be directly causing the higher levels of amyloid known to contribute to Alzheimer's, in the same way that such patterns promote heart disease," he said.
"This study provides a reason to certainly continue cholesterol treatment in people who are developing memory loss regardless of concerns regarding their cardiovascular health," said Reed, a professor in the UC Davis Department of Neurology.
"It also suggests a method of lowering amyloid levels in people who are middle aged, when such build-up is just starting," he said. "If modifying cholesterol levels in the brain early in life turns out to reduce amyloid deposits late in life, we could potentially make a significant difference in reducing the prevalence of Alzheimer's, a goal of an enormous amount of research and drug development effort."