Dec 152010

According to researchers at Columbia University, people with high levels of HDL cholesterol (the “good” form) are 60 percent less likely to develop AD. The researchers followed 1,130 seniors with no history of memory loss or dementia and measured their cholesterol levels every 18 months for four years. When the researchers compared the cholesterol levels of study participants with and without Alzheimer’s, they found that those with the highest HDL counts, greater than 55 mg/dL, had about a 60 percent reduced risk of developing the disease compared to those whose levels were less than 39 mg/dL.

Their findings support the theory that high levels of HDL cholesterol are correlated with lower incidence of AD. The study was published earlier this week in the Archives of Neurology and sheds more light on the interactions between cholesterol and AD.

Apolipoprotein E (apoE), as readers of this blog will recall, participates in the mobilization and distribution of cholesterol among various tissues of the body, including the brain. In humans, there are three common isoforms of apoE: apoE2, apoE3 and apoE4. ApoE4 differs from apoE3, the most common isoform of apoE. A single e4 allele is sufficient to increase the risk of developing atherosclerosis, and also Alzheimer’s disease. The e4 allele results in slightly elevated plasma LDL cholesterol levels and a small but significant decrease in plasma HDL levels. HDL is one of the major carriers of protein in and out of the brain, and also binds to beta-amyloid.

This finding further advances the idea that the interplay between cholesterol, cholesterol-carrying proteins such as apoE and HDL, and beta-amyloid may be critical in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. This study has important strengths. It is a prospective cohort study designed for the diagnosis of cognitive decline that has complete clinical and neuropsychological evaluation at each interval.

Guidelines recommend that men raise HDL levels that are less than 40 mg/dL and that women increase HDL numbers less 50 mg/dL. An HDL of 60 mg/dL or higher is optimal.

Michael S. Rafii, M.D., Ph.D.
Associate Medical Director, ADCS Medical Core
This post originally appeared in Alzheimer’s Insights, an ADCS Blog.

* Association of Higher Levels of High-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol in Elderly Individuals and Lower Risk of Late-Onset Alzheimer Disease. Christiane Reitz et al., Arch Neurol. 2010;67(12):1491-1497.

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  7 Responses to “HDL Cholesterol and Alzheimer’s Disease”

  1. This is an excellent article. I am intrigued with the facts connecting increased HDL and reduction in risk factors. I would love to receive additional information on ways to increase HDL. I sustained a very serious closed-head, traumatic brain injury in 1973 at which point I was initially diagnosed as brain dead. Good fortune was mine as I was diagnosed slightly brain active @ another hospital where surgery was perforned to end the internal bleeding. I have since feared the connection between ALZ and injuries to the head. I have taken steps to exercise certain areas of difficulty since, hoping this is a positive action in the filght against Alzheimers. If increasing my HDL will help to protect me from potentially becoming a victim of this disease I would love to receive any additional instructions. – Thank you, Laurie

  2. Your information has been valuable to me.I have been using it as a guide for my eating habits etc.

  3. Thanks for the valuable information provided. It has helped me a lot. I had been reading more about it now and become more conscious towards what I eat.

  4. You are welcome! I am tunakfhl you are getting help from the articles. It makes it all worth it!***HONESTY WARNING!*** I have no idea how many pistachios are in one ounce. I have one of three pistachio eating modes. First is that I grab a handful and eat them. Second is a grab the bag and eat way to many. Third I don’t eat any cause we ran out. Knowing you you will find out how many are in one ounce so when you do please put it here so we all will know! HA! We could hold a contest!Thankfully God has blessed me with great cholesterol thus far.It will be fun to see what impact they have on your cholesterol.

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  6. My HDL used to be low, and LDL was high, had an MI 25 years ago, did most agents including statins but HDL stayed low of course. I went on a low carb diet to lose weight more effectively and discovered incidentally that my HDL doubled, and all my ratios were great. Could not believe it, but I have retested HDL twice since then and consistently in the high 70s. But does raising HDL help? The observation of decreased risk in people with good HDL could be in people on any diet, so just because a low carb diet raises HDL doesn't mean that for people like me that it is the answer. But the association of AD with metabolic syndrome, HDL etc suggests to me that it is worth pursuing. Cardiac wise, I'm fine, but only time will tell.

  7. I just found out I have one APOE 4 variant…but my good , HDL, cholesterol has never been below 130…in December it was 138…runs in my family….my LD L is in the 90s…I am happy to hear about correlation between AD and HDL…my doctor is st ill amazed at my wonderful HDL.

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