Most people develop mild cognitive impairment as they age, but it is only in some cases that this condition progresses to full-blown dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
A new study in The Journal of Nuclear Medicine has just identified one common medication that causes this serious transition from a little confused to full-blown dementia.
This is the most prescribed drug in the world—so if you’re over 50, chances are high that you’re taking it. And you probably shouldn’t be.
The researchers recruited 392 people who were already enrolled in the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative from locations all over the United States. They were all suffering from some level of mild cognitive impairment (MCI).
They first divided the participants into several groups based on their cognitive status, their cholesterol levels at the beginning of the study, and the type of statin they were taking.
There are two types of statins: hydrophilic statins dissolve in water and primarily target the liver, while lipophilic statins dissolve in fat and target all tissues throughout the body.
The researchers also performed PET scans (positron emission tomography scans) on their subjects to examine metabolism in various parts of their brains, specifically to examine whether metabolism declined in areas associated with the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
Metabolism is a good test to check for Alzheimer’s, because the conversion of food to energy enables cells to work. A serious decline in metabolism indisputably demonstrates that the tissue in a specific area is highly dysfunctional or dying.
These PET scans showed a significant reduction of metabolism in the posterior cingulate cortices of the subjects who were taking lipophilic statins. The posterior cingulate cortex is the part of the brain that declines most quickly during the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
This metabolic decline did not occur in the brains of people who were not taking hydrophilic statins, or among people who had very high cholesterol at the beginning of the study.
The researchers observed their subjects for eight years and could see the metabolic reduction clearly after five years.
This helps answer the question of whether statins cause dementia; some studies have found that they do not cause dementia while others have found that they do.
It also helps to explain why dementia has become such a pandemic, and it underlines again how unwise it is to give a drug with such life-destroying side effects to such incredibly high numbers of people. Especially because it’s highly questionable whether or not statins actually help at all to prevent stroke and heart attack.
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