In a study of 44 patients with Alzheimer?s disease, researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center found that statins lowered the patients? brain cholesterol levels. (Brain cholesterol contributes to the formation of amyloid plaques that damage brain cells.) During the 6-week study, participants were randomly assigned to receive either 40 mg daily of 1 of 3 different statins or 1 g daily of extended-release niacin?another kind of cholesterol-lowering drug. The results were published in the Archives of Neurology (April 21, 2003).
The researchers discovered that the 3 statin drugs reduced brain cholesterol levels by at least 20%, whereas the extended-release niacin reduced them by 10%. "This class of drugs [statins] may be potentially beneficial in the treatment of Alzheimer?s disease," said Gloria Vega, PhD, lead author of the study.