High Cholesterol May Increase Alzheimer's Risk

Published Online: Thursday, December 1, 2005

A new study shows that not only does high cholesterol put the heart at risk, but it also may endanger the mind as well by raising the risk of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Researchers at the Centre for Molecular Biology in Heidelberg, Germany, found that a protein involved in the formation of the brain-clogging plaques related to AD also may be a key player in cholesterol regulation.

They say that these findings may explain the link found in previous studies comparing high cholesterol levels with increased levels of amyloid-beta (Aβ), the protein that forms the plaques found in the brains of patients with AD. The study results, which were published in the October issue of Nature Cell Biology, also showed that a larger protein called amyloid precursor protein helps in maintaining healthy cholesterol levels. This protein generates the Aβ‚protein, however, creating a vicious cycle in which cholesterol levels affect the Aβ‚protein, which in turn is created by the protein that helps cholesterol. This cycle could result in both cholesterol and Aβ‚levels spinning out of control and promoting the development of AD. Researchers said that further studies are needed to confirm these results and to verify whether cholesterol management may be incorporated into future treatments for AD.

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