Study sees no Alzheimer's protection from statins
By Will Dunham
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins do not protect against Alzheimer's disease as some previous research has suggested, a study published on Wednesday said.
Scientists have been interested in other potential health benefits from taking statins, a class of drugs used to lower blood cholesterol levels, and some earlier studies had indicated statins could help ward off Alzheimer's disease.
Researchers led by Dr. Zoe Arvanitakis of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago followed 929 Catholic nuns, priests and brothers from around the United States, average age 75, who did not have any form of dementia at the beginning of the study.
They underwent cognitive and neurological tests every year for up to 12 years and consented to having a brain autopsy after their death.
At the beginning, 119 of the participants were taking a statin drug. Over the course of the study, 191 people developed Alzheimer's disease, the researchers reported in the journal Neurology.
"We did not find that statins were associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer's disease, with less decline in thinking ability, or with Alzheimer's disease changes in the brain at time of death," Arvanitakis, part of the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center, said in a telephone interview.
Taking statins also did not protect against memory loss, Arvanitakis added.
"The area is topical and we know that several studies have repeatedly suggested that Alzheimer's disease may be less likely in persons taking statins," Arvanitakis added.
Brain autopsies were performed on more than 250 of the participants who died during the course of the study to examine whether statins changed the brain structures associated with Alzheimer's disease or with another type of dementia involving stroke in the brain.
No relationship was seen with either type of dementia, the researchers said.
Alzheimer's disease, a brain disorder that ruins one's ability to carry out daily activities, is the most common form of dementia among the elderly. It usually begins after age 60.
(Editing by Maggie Fox)