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Originally published February 26 2008

Statin Drugs for Prevent Alzheimer’s? Forget About It

by Sherry Baker, Health Sciences Editor

(NaturalNews) Statins are prescribed by the millions as "wonder drugs" that lower cholesterol. What's more, this class of medications has also been touted as a possible way to prevent Alzheimer's, the mind-robbing disease that currently afflicts about 5 million Americans, according to the Alzheimer's Association.

So it's not surprising that anyone who has a family history of dementia and has witnessed the horrific nightmare that is Alzheimer's disease (AD) might welcome taking a daily statin pill that could protect them from a similar fate.

Now comes word, however, that claims statins can prevent AD are just plain wrong. According to research published in the January 16, 2008, issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, scientists conclude statins offer no protection against Alzheimer's disease.

The research team, headed by Zoe Arvanitakis, MD, MS, Associate Professor of the Department of Neurological Sciences at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, studied 929 Catholic clergy members with an average age of 75. The research subjects, who agreed to have their brains autopsied when they died, participated in the Religious Orders Study, an ongoing study of aging and Alzheimer's disease.

All were free of dementia symptoms when the research project began; they were given annual cognitive tests for up to 12 years to check for developing memory problems. When any participants died, their brains were biopsied in order to definitively find out who had AD.

In all, brain biopsies were performed on 262 individuals - 47 statin users and 215 nonusers. The scientists documented that statin use at any time during the study had no influence on which person had developed the tell-tale plaques of amyloidal beta and neurofibrillary tangles that mark AD. What's more, taking statins played no role in preventing any of the research subjects from having strokes.

"Some studies have suggested people taking cholesterol-lowering drugs are less likely to have Alzheimer's disease, but our longitudinal findings found no relation between statin use and Alzheimer's," said study author Arvanitakis, a member of the American Academy of Neurology.

This news follows another recent negative report about one brand of statins, Vytorin, which has been found to be worthless for its intended purpose - the reduction of artery clogging plaque. The ENHANCE study compared Vytorin, which contains two types of statins, Zetia (ezetimibe) and Zocor (simvastatin), to Zocor alone.

Not only did the combination pill not reduce dangerous plaque buildup in neck arteries, the researchers suggest the patients on Vytorin might have experienced slightly more plaque buildup.

There's another reason to beware of statin drugs as panaceas. The medications have been found associated with a host of side effects, many serious. For example, the package insert for the popular statin drug Lipitor warns consumers of possible muscle pain, weakness, liver problems and adrenal insufficiency.

Fortunately there are non-toxic, natural ways that appear to help prevent both your brain and your cardiovascular system. According to a study published in the November 13, 2007, issue of Neurology®, a diet rich in omega-3 oils (abundant in cold water fish like salmon), fruits and vegetables may lower your risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease – and this eating lifestyle is also linked to a lower risk of heart disease.

About the author

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.

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