(NaturalNews) Statin drugs can reduce soaring cholesterol levels, according to countless ads touting these supposed "wonder" drugs, that means they are brimming with health benefits because they lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. The problem is a host of side effects from eye problems and muscle pain to heart arrhythmias and liver disorders have been linked to these widely prescribed medications. Now comes research by an Iowa State University scientist that strongly suggests statins also could be robbing brains of thinking power and memory by doing exactly what they are supposed to do -- reduce cholesterol.
It turns out that statins inhibit not only the liver from making cholesterol but may also block the brain from making cholesterol. That's a serious consequence, according to Yeon-Kyun Shin, a biophysics professor in the department of biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology at Iowa State, because cholesterol is vital for healthy and optimum brain function. "If you deprive cholesterol from the brain, then you directly affect the machinery that triggers the release of neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters affect the data-processing and memory functions. In other words, how smart you are and how well you remember things," said Dr. Shin in a statement to the media.
In a study published in the February issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Shin and colleagues tested the activity of the neurotransmitter-release processes of brain cells without cholesterol present to see how well they functioned. Then cholesterol was placed in the system and the scientists measured the transmitter function again. The result? Cholesterol increased the neurotransmitter function by five times.
"Our study shows there is a direct link between cholesterol and the neurotransmitter release. We know exactly the molecular mechanics of what happens in the cells. Cholesterol changes the shape of the protein to stimulate thinking and memory," Dr. Shin said in the press statement. "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."
However, just because cutting down on cholesterol in the brain may mess up memory and cognitive skills, it doesn't mean that more cholesterol in the blood will make you more intelligent and able to remember more facts. That's because no matter how much cholesterol is in your diet, the cholesterol in the blood doesn't cross over the blood brain barrier.
In addition, by loading a diet with saturated fat from animal products and junk food, too much low-density lipoprotein (LDL), often called "bad" cholesterol, can build up in cells and cause hardening of arterial walls contributing to strokes and heart disease -- unless you have enough high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, to keep LDL out of cells. Fortunately, there are many proven ways to lower the "bad" artery logging cholesterol without resorting to statin drugs. For example, the Mayo Clinic web site notes garlic, ground flaxseed, barley and artichoke extract may be helpful in keeping cholesterol levels in healthy balance.
Sherry Baker is a widely published writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Health, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Yoga Journal, Optometry, Atlanta, Arthritis Today, Natural Healing Newsletter, OMNI, UCLA's "Healthy Years" newsletter, Mount Sinai School of Medicine's "Focus on Health Aging" newsletter, the Cleveland Clinic's "Men's Health Advisor" newsletter and many others.