CHOLESTEROL WATCH

Pharmacy Times, Volume 0, 0

Link Found Between Huntington's and Brain Cholesterol

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic (Rochester,Minn) have discovered a proteinthat could explain how Huntington'sdisease affects the brain. They foundthat the mutated Huntington's proteininteracts with another protein to causea dramatic accumulation of cholesterolin the brain. The disease, also known asHuntington's chorea or St. Vitus' dance,is a progressive, degenerative conditionthat causes nerve cells in the brain towaste away. Symptoms can includeuncontrolled movements, emotionaldisturbances, and mental deterioration.

Cynthia McMurray, PhD, molecularbiologist at the clinic, explained that"cholesterol is essential for promotingthe connection network among braincells and in maintaining their membraneintegrity. Our discovery...providesus with key results and solid clues tothe mechanism of this disease." Researchersfound that an abnormalaccumulation of cholesterol in neuronalcells occurred only when the proteinfor Huntington's was expressedwith the molecule caveolin-1. This moleculeis the major protein of caveolae,small vesicles that capture and movecholesterol in and out of neuronalmembranes. When the expression ofcaveolin was disabled, the accumulationsof cholesterol were halted.

Statin Users Risk MIs by Stopping Treatment

A study from the PHARMO Institute in Amsterdam, theNetherlands, has shown that people with high cholesterol levelswho stop treatment with statins increase their risk ofmyocardial infarctions (MIs) by at least 30%. Statins are prescribedto lower cholesterol in patients at risk of coronaryheart disease, and the study showed that more than half of thepatients followed in the study stopped taking them within 2years of starting the therapy. Among those who continued totake the drugs, hospital admissions for MIs fell by an averageof 30%, based upon the frequency of dosing and the size of thedose. The study was published in the December 7, 2006, onlineedition of the European Heart Journal.

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

High-Protein Diet Still Goodfor the Heart

Traditional high-protein diets tend to be high in fat, clogging thearteries 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 ahigh-protein diet that can lower harmful low-density lipoproteincholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure. The diet laid out inHealthy Eating: A Guide to the New Nutrition offers an alternativeto the recently popular high-protein diets that emphasize consuminglarge quantities of saturated fats along with the proteins.

According to Frank M. Sacks, MD, editor of the report and professorof cardiovascular disease prevention at Harvard, a highproteindiet "does not have to be all steak and eggs," and not alllow-carb diets are equal. The most successful diet plans of anyvariety have certain factors in common, including an emphasison produce and whole grains. The report also includes theHarvard Healthy Eating Pyramid, a message about vitamins andminerals that have extra health benefits, additives to avoid, andfood-safety tips. The guide is available from Harvard HealthPublications. Copies can be ordered from the Web site atwww.health.harvard.edu/HE or by calling 877-649-9457.

Statins Reduce Stroke, MI inCarotid Arterial Disease Patients

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

The charts of 449 patients with carotid arterial diseasewere analyzed from January 2001 until December 2005. Ofthese patients, 298 were treated with statins. Patient followuptook place within an average of 26 months for the statingroup and 21 months for the nonstatin group. All patientshad experienced a narrowing of 1 or 2 carotid arteries, andnone had been revascularized. The results showed that theincidence of stroke, MI, or death in patients treated withstatins was 15%, compared with 68% in those not treatedwith statins.