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Low ‘good’ cholesterol linked to dementia

1st July 2008

People with low levels of a form of ‘good’ cholesterol in middle age may have a higher risk of memory loss and dementia in later life.

Scientists found that people with less high-density lipoproteins (HDL) performed worse in tests assessing memory.

The team from the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research argue that their findings suggest physicians and patients should be encouraged to monitor levels of HDL cholesterol.

The research is published in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology.

At age 55, participants with low HDL cholesterol showed a 27 per cent increased risk of memory loss when compared to those with high HDL.

Five years later, participants with low HDL had a 53 per cent increased risk of memory loss compared to the high HDL group.

The researchers say the mechanism linking HDL cholesterol to dementia is unclear but suggest that HDL cholesterol prevents formation of beta-amyloid.

“HDL could also affect memory through its influence on atherosclerotic disease and stroke, or vascular injury,” said lead author Dr Archana Singh-Manoux.

“Finally, HDL cholesterol may influence memory through its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.”

Commenting on the study, Dr Susanne Sorensen, head of research at the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “One of the functions of HDL is to transport cholesterol from the arteries back to the liver to be degraded, so it is clearly important to have enough of this transporter available.”

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