Do statin drugs cause Alzheimer’s disease?

[Disclaimer: I am not an allopathic medical doctor (MD) or physician, nor do I wish to be. The information shared here is not to be construed as medical advice. I am simply sharing research that exists within the mainstream media and within peer-reviewed medical literature. That said, major problems exist with the peer-review process and much of the scientific literature, which shall be the topic of another blog post!]

About a year ago, while casually chatting with CR, one of my fellow coworkers, she mentioned she was experiencing “brain fog” and memory problems. CR is still young, in her mid-to-late 50s (yes, that’s still young! I’m a geriatrics and hospice nurse who has had the privilege of caring for plenty of nonagenarians and a few centenarians!).

Not long before that conversation, I had done some research on the botanical treatment of Alzheimer’s disease (or senile dementia) as part of my studies at MUIH, which I quickly shared with her. In a nutshell, senile dementia and other cognitive dysfunction have been treated successfully for thousands of years under Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine using herbs such as turmeric (Curcuma longa), brahmi or bacopa (Bacopa monnieri), and ashwagandha (Withania somnifera).

Incidentally, while the US has the world’s highest rate of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), rural India has one of the lowest (Ganguli et al., 2000). The low rate of AD in rural India is believed to be the result of the rural Indian diet, which includes significant amounts of turmeric-based curry dishes; turmeric is considered a potent antioxidant (Ganguli et al., 2000).

A few year earlier, I had come across some studies linking cholesterol-lowering statin drugs with brain dysfunction, such as memory loss, because cholesterol is required by the brain for a variety of functions including “white matter” development and nerve transport (Seneff, 2009). Cholesterol is a precursor to hormones such as estrogen and testosterone, so it also plays a role in sexual function or dysfunction and other reproductive system physiology.

Fast forward a year and I received the following email from CR:

Meeting you and getting to know you was such a blessing … and I am off statins and beta blockers thanks to your insight.”

Plus, her brain fog has dispersed! Receiving CR’s email was one of the catalysts to my starting this blog, once and for all. (Thanks so much, CR, for sharing that with me! Beta blockers and other blood-pressure regulating medication shall be the topic of another post.)

Below is an excerpt from my 2015 research paper, “The Treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease with Botanical Agents”:

“While controversial, a growing concern exists among complementary and alternative healthcare practitioners regarding a major potential drug-induced cause of the disease: the ever-increasing prescription of statin drugs, particularly in Western countries, for the treatment of high cholesterol (Seneff, 2009). Cholesterol is required by the brain for a variety of functions including myelin sheath (“white matter”) development and nerve transport across the synapse (the juncture between nerve cells); 25% of the body’s cholesterol is found in the brain (Seneff, 2009).

According to Seneff (2009), statin drugs “cripple the liver’s ability to synthesize cholesterol, and as a consequence, the level of LDL in the blood plummets. Cholesterol plays a crucial role in the brain, both in terms of enabling signal transport across the synapse and in terms of encouraging the growth of neurons through healthy development of the myelin sheath” (p. 7).

Additionally, statin drugs reduce the levels of antioxidants to the brain (such as fat-soluble vitamins A and E), impair the ability of cells to synthesize protective coenzyme Q10, and indirectly cause deficiency in vitamin D, which is synthesized by cholesterol and plays a role in immune function (Seneff, 2009).

While the use of statin drugs is not directly related to the traditional treatment of AD, a holistic practitioner using herbal approaches to treat the disease should investigate whether the patient in question is using such drugs. Therefore, a reasonable herbal approach for the treatment of AD would include not only cognitive-enhancing herbs but also a holiday from statin drugs, to determine if corresponding improvements in cognitive function occur.”

Despite little-to-no mainstream media coverage, even the FDA site warns consumers about the following potential risks associated with statin-drug usage:

  • liver damage (give that the liver is the body’s cholesterol-production factory)
  • memory loss
  • diabetes
  • muscle damage (rhabdomyolysis)

Millions of people in the United States and the rest of the Western world have been prescribed and are regularly taking statins. In fact, they are amongst the most prescribed drugs in the US. So, why isn’t such an alarming FDA warning broadcast on or reported in all the so-called mainstream media outlets such as CNN, the New York Times, ABC, NBC, and the Wall Street Journal? Why isn’t this frontpage news, instead of being buried thousands of pages deep on the FDA site? Why doesn’t your physician know about this—or does she?

These questions shall be the topics of future posts.

***

References

Ganguli, M., Chandra, V., Kamboh, M. I., Johnston, J. M., Dodge, H. H., Thelma, B. K., … DeKosky, S. T. (2000). Apolipoprotein E polymorphism and Alzheimer disease: The Indo-US cross-national dementia study. Archives of Neurology, 57(6), 824–830.

Seneff, S. (2009). APOE-4: The clue to why low fat diet and statins may cause Alzheimer’s. CAM Magazine. Retrieved from http://people.csail.mit.edu/seneff/alzheimers_statins.html

[Disclaimer: I am not an allopathic medical doctor (MD) or physician, nor do I wish to be. The information shared here is not to be construed as medical advice. I am simply sharing research that exists within the mainstream media and within peer-reviewed medical literature. That said, major problems exist with the peer-review process and much of the scientific literature, which shall be the topic of another blog post!]

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