Thursday, July 3, 2008

once more....keep off the statins.

This week there was a spate of stories about how low levels of (good?) cholesterol are linked to memory loss and the risk of dementia (also here and here)

Not particularly new stuff - Barry Groves has linked low cholesterol to Alzheimer's - and Chris Masterjohn has explained how memory is directly reliant on cholesterol.

Anyway, you know I am not a fan of the cholesterol hypothesis.

Then I saw this press release:

Statins have unexpected effect on pool of powerful brain cells

Now you might think that there is a real positive benefit to statins that has been you read on:

Cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins have a profound effect on an elite group of cells important to brain health as we age, scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center have found. The new findings shed light on a long-debated potential role for statins in the area of dementia.

Still sounds good doesn't you read on....

The new findings come at a time of increasing awareness among neurologists and cardiologists of the possible effects of statins on the brain. Several studies have set out to show that statins provide some protection against dementia, but the evidence has been inconclusive at best. Meanwhile, there is some debate among physicians about whether statins might actually boost the risk of dementia. The new research published in the July issue of the journal Glia by Steven Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., and first author Fraser Sim, Ph.D., provides direct evidence for an effect of statins on brain cells.

"There has been a great deal of discussion about a link between statins and dementia, but evidence either way has been scant," said Goldman, a neurologist who led the team. "This new data provides a basis for further exploration.

"These findings were made through experiments done in cell culture using human brain cells and exposing them to doses of statins used widely in patients. But this research was not done in people. There are a great number of questions that need to be explored further before anyone considers changing the way statins are used," Goldman added.

Now you may not be so sure....why would we change the way we use statins? Read on and you find that actually they have found a big problem!

"Our results suggest the need for awareness of the possible toxicities accruing to long-term statin use, and identify one such potential toxicity, the premature differentiation and attendant long-term depletion of oligodendrocyte progenitor cells of the adult brain," conclude the authors in their Glia paper.

They are saying that statins can mess up your brain in a really complex way!!!!

Read the whole thing. It is amazing how the real story - statins are potentially a big problem - is hidden away at the end.


Anonymous said...

First, there's a huge difference between in vitro and in vivo differentiation. A rat model would be a lot more convincing.

Second, the authors barely observed an effect at their lowest dose(5 uM). I don't feel like digging up the PK data on humans, but I'd guess they're working with concentrations about an order of magnitude too high.

Chris said...


fair enough points, but I was commenting as much as anything on the way in which this was reported. It is only at the end that it is apparent that they have spotted a potential problem.

Chistina Rose said...

I see, makes sense. Some of this stuff makes me really think I should get out and about a bit more and get my muscles going! Cheers for the info by the way. I have a similar blog you might want to check out...

Hope you like it,



Anonymous said...

What really interests me is the statement: "There are a great number of questions that need to be explored further before anyone considers changing the way statins are used."

What if this study had come out prior to widespread use of statins? Would Goldman have said "There are a great number of questions that need to be explored further before anyone considers using statins."?

This fallacy of time dependence of reults is what I find interesting. Maybe it is the same as the well know sunk cost fallacy or psychology of previous investment.


colchambers said...

Hi Chris,

thanks for pointing me to the article indicating cholesterol may help memory and learning. A fascinating idea. I wondered how long it would be before I saw something fighting for cholesterol not against.

It inspired me to add a post to my blog as it added that little bit more evidence to the view I'm getting that all these tests we have as indicators of disease are far from measures of what's causing the problem, I'm wondering if in fact they're the bodies response to try to fix these things.

Chris said...

Hi Col

thanks for the comment. If you search this blog for "cholesterol" you'll find lots of other stuff like this. There are lots of people out there fighting for cholesterol. Dr Malcolm Kendrick's videos that I link to are excellent. I'd also advise you to check out the "Hyperlipid" blog.