MARCH 01, 2007

Link Found Between Huntington's and Brain Cholesterol

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic (Rochester, Minn) have discovered a protein that could explain how Huntington's disease affects the brain. They found that the mutated Huntington's protein interacts with another protein to cause a dramatic accumulation of cholesterol in the brain. The disease, also known as Huntington's chorea or St. Vitus' dance, is a progressive, degenerative condition that causes nerve cells in the brain to waste away. Symptoms can include uncontrolled movements, emotional disturbances, and mental deterioration.

Cynthia McMurray, PhD, molecular biologist at the clinic, explained that "cholesterol is essential for promoting the connection network among brain cells and in maintaining their membrane integrity. Our discovery...provides us with key results and solid clues to the mechanism of this disease." Researchers found that an abnormal accumulation of cholesterol in neuronal cells occurred only when the protein for Huntington's was expressed with the molecule caveolin-1. This molecule is the major protein of caveolae, small vesicles that capture and move cholesterol in and out of neuronal membranes. When the expression of caveolin was disabled, the accumulations of cholesterol were halted.

Statin Users Risk MIs by Stopping Treatment

A study from the PHARMO Institute in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, has shown that people with high cholesterol levels who stop treatment with statins increase their risk of myocardial infarctions (MIs) by at least 30%. Statins are prescribed to lower cholesterol in patients at risk of coronary heart disease, and the study showed that more than half of the patients followed in the study stopped taking them within 2 years of starting the therapy. Among those who continued to take the drugs, hospital admissions for MIs fell by an average of 30%, based upon the frequency of dosing and the size of the dose. The study was published in the December 7, 2006, online edition of the European Heart Journal.

The researchers studied the prescription patterns of 59,094 new statin users over the first 2 years of therapy between January 1991 and December 2004. The patients were then followed until their first hospital admission for MI, death, or the end of the study. Ron Herings, PharmD, PhD, director of the Institute, said, "You have a high risk [of MIs] when you start using these drugs. When you stop, your risk increases to baseline, and that is a 30% to 40% increase."

High-Protein Diet Still Good for the Heart

Traditional high-protein diets tend to be high in fat, clogging the arteries and killing the heart with saturated fats from meat, eggs, and cheese. A large study conducted by Harvard Medical School, Boston, Mass, shows that there can be a heart-healthy side to a high-protein diet that can lower harmful low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure. The diet laid out in Healthy Eating: A Guide to the New Nutrition offers an alternative to the recently popular high-protein diets that emphasize consuming large quantities of saturated fats along with the proteins.

According to Frank M. Sacks, MD, editor of the report and professor of cardiovascular disease prevention at Harvard, a highprotein diet "does not have to be all steak and eggs," and not all low-carb diets are equal. The most successful diet plans of any variety have certain factors in common, including an emphasis on produce and whole grains. The report also includes the Harvard Healthy Eating Pyramid, a message about vitamins and minerals that have extra health benefits, additives to avoid, and food-safety tips. The guide is available from Harvard Health Publications. Copies can be ordered from the Web site at or by calling 877-649-9457.

Statins Reduce Stroke, MI in Carotid Arterial Disease Patients

New research suggests that statins can significantly reduce the risk of stroke, myocardial infarction (MI), or allcause death in patients with severe carotid arterial disease that has not yet revascularized. The study showed that statins notably lowered the occurrence of these incidences in nonrevascularized patients with chronic high cholesterol. The study was presented last October at CHEST 2006, the 72nd annual international scientific assembly of the American College of Chest Physicians in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The charts of 449 patients with carotid arterial disease were analyzed from January 2001 until December 2005. Of these patients, 298 were treated with statins. Patient followup took place within an average of 26 months for the statin group and 21 months for the nonstatin group. All patients had experienced a narrowing of 1 or 2 carotid arteries, and none had been revascularized. The results showed that the incidence of stroke, MI, or death in patients treated with statins was 15%, compared with 68% in those not treated with statins.

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