Higher levels of HDL cholesterol reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease

Wednesday, January 19, 2011 by: Margie King
Tags: HDL cholesterol, Alzheimer's, health news

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(NaturalNews) While pharmaceutical companies continue their campaign to lower the nation's cholesterol levels with statin drugs, a new study finds that higher levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), which is often called "good" cholesterol, appear to be associated with a reduced risk for Alzheimer's disease in older adults.

The report, published in the December issue of Archives of Neurology, noted the frequency of both high total cholesterol and Alzheimer's disease in western societies. Fifty percent of U.S. adults are considered to have high cholesterol, and one percent of adults aged 65 to 69 develop Alzheimer's disease, with that rate increasing with age to 60 percent of those older than 95 years.

Researchers at Columbia University's Taub Institute followed 1,130 Medicare recipients 65 and older to study the association of cholesterol levels with Alzheimer's disease.

The authors assigned a diagnosis of "probable" Alzheimer's disease to study subjects developing dementia if the condition could not be otherwise explained. They assigned a diagnosis of "possible" Alzheimer's disease if it was the most likely cause of dementia but there were other disorders that could contribute to the condition, such as stroke or Parkinson disease.

The Columbia study found that higher levels of HDL cholesterol, defined as 55 mg/dl or more, were associated with a decreased risk of both probable and possible Alzheimer's disease. The American Heart Association recommends that levels of total cholesterol in the blood be maintained at less than 200 milligram per deciliter, and it considers HDL cholesterol to be low if it is 40 mg/dl in men or 50 mg/dl in women.

Even more interesting, and bad news for the statin manufacturers, was the finding that higher levels of total cholesterol, non-HDL cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, often called the "bad" cholesterol, were also associated with lower Alzheimer risk, although they found that association to be non-significant after adjusting for other factors.

The lead author of the study, Christiane Reitz, M.D., Ph.D., noted that there is a class of drugs called fibrates, which are sometimes prescribed in conjunction with statin drugs, that may raise HDL cholesterol. The common side effects of fibrates, however, include headaches, skin rashes, nausea and gastrointestinal problems, and in some cases can include fever, chest pain, reduced libido, breathing difficulty, dizziness, irregular heartbeat and swollen feet or legs.

Dr. Reitz also noted that niacin, or vitamin B3, is effective to raise HDL cholesterol levels. Niacin is a water soluble B vitamin used by the body to convert carbohydrates, fats and protein into energy. It is also instrumental in keeping the nervous system, digestive system, skin, hair and eyes healthy.

For over 50 years, niacin has been used effectively to raise the levels of good HDL cholesterol in the blood, and it is also known to help reduce bad LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. In fact, in a 2009 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, niacin was found to be better for reducing cholesterol and preventing heart disease than Merck's prescription medication Zetia. Over the eight-month study period, niacin was found to be significantly more effective than Zetia at reducing artery plaque and decreasing the number of heart attacks.

Niacin is available in supplement form but it is also widely available in the food supply. The principal food sources of niacin include:

1. Dairy products (Organic Raw Certified)
2. Meats, poultry and fish (Organic)
3. Nuts
4. Eggs (Organic)
5. Nutritional yeast
6. Wheat germ
7. Whole grains


About the author

Margie King is a certified holistic health coach, Wharton M.B.A. and former corporate attorney. She received her training at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and is certified by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners. Margie leads workshops on nutrition, conducts healthy cooking classes, and offers individual and group health and nutrition coaching to women and busy professionals.
For more information and to receive her free report "Bread: What You Need to Know Before Buying Your Next Loaf," check out Margie's website:
Read more of Margie's articles as the Philadelphia Nutrition Examiner here:

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