Cholesterol-lowering drugs reduce brain function

February 25, 2009 in Food & Nutrition, Heart Disease | 4 comments

devolutionResearch by an Iowa State University scientist due to be published this month in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences indicates that cholesterol-lowering drugs (statins) may lessen brain function.

The results of the study show that drugs that inhibit the liver from making cholesterol may also keep the brain from making cholesterol, which is vital to efficient brain function.

“If you deprive cholesterol from the brain, then you directly affect the machinery that triggers the release of neurotransmitters,”, said Yeon-Kyun Shin, the lead researcher. “Neurotransmitters affect the data-processing and memory functions. In other words – how smart you are and how well you remember things.”

Cholesterol is abundant in the tissue of the brain and nervous system. Myelin, which covers nerve axons to help conduct the electrical impulses that make movement, sensation, thinking, learning, and remembering possible, is over one fifth cholesterol by weight. Even though the brain only makes up 2% of the body’s weight, it contains 25% of its cholesterol.

We now know that the formation of synapses, or connections between neurons, is directly dependent on the availability of cholesterol.

The formation of these synapses are what give us the ability to remember and learn. The benefits of sleep for memory formation and learning are in part a result of increased cholesterol synthesis during sleep.

“If you try to lower the cholesterol by taking medicine that is attacking the machinery of cholesterol synthesis in the liver, that medicine goes to the brain too. And then it reduces the synthesis of cholesterol which is necessary in the brain,” said Shin.

This study is yet another strike against statin drugs, which have numerous side effects and are not effective in reducing mortality for the vast majority of the population. Please see my recent article, The Truth About Statin Drugs, for more on why statins are probably not a good idea for you and your loved ones.


Galina June 30, 2009 at 2:55 pm

It is actually old news about cholesterol’s usefulness for brain and also for some hormones production in physiology. However, still cholesterol is associated with atherosclerosis and is a risk factor for cardiac disease. I read ( don’t remember, unfortunately, where) that problem with cholesterol is due to its high viscosity. Because of this cholesterol could easy stick to vessel’s wall creating the foundation for plaque formation. What do you think about it.? There are some herbs and formulas that help to manage cholesterol level in the blood stream. Do you think it is o’k to use these herbs instead of statin drugs?
Respect. Galina

Robert Wilkanowski April 3, 2010 at 12:54 pm

Any thoughts advice on taking niacin or some form of vitamin B in addition to diet/weight loss/exercise in controlling blood cholesterol?

Chris Kresser April 3, 2010 at 1:02 pm

Please see this post for an extensive list of recommendations. Also check here for an index of all of my posts on cholesterol and heart disease. There is no need to control blood cholesterol, because it’s not the cause of heart disease.

Chris June 30, 2009 at 3:29 pm


No, cholesterol isn’t associated with atherosclerosis and is not a risk factor for heart disease, unless it’s oxidized LDL you’re talking about of only middle-aged men with pre-existing heart disease.

I suggest you check our my index of articles on cholesterol and read as many as you can. Start with this one.

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