"Bad Cholesterol" May Cause Early Alzheimer's Disease

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"Bad Cholesterol" May Cause Early Alzheimer's Disease
"Bad Cholesterol" May Cause Early Alzheimer's Disease
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"Bad Cholesterol" May Cause Early Alzheimer's Disease

Researchers at the Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Emory University have found a link between high LDL (low density lipoprotein - "bad" cholesterol) levels and early Alzheimer's. The research results are published in JAMA Neurology.

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Researchers at the Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Emory University have found a link between high LDL (low density lipoprotein - "bad" cholesterol) levels and early Alzheimer's. The research results are published in JAMA Neurology.

“One interpretation of our current data is that LDL cholesterol plays a causal role. If so, we may need to revise our low-density cholesterol targets to help reduce the risk of Alzheimer's. Our work is now focused on testing for causation,”said Thomas Wingo, lead author of the study.

Elevated cholesterol levels have been linked to an increased risk of developing Alzheimer's disease in old age. Previous research has shown that a specific mutation in the APOE (apolipoprotein E) gene is a major risk factor for Alzheimer's disease. As is known, the ApoE E4 variant increases the level of circulating cholesterol, especially LDL. This type of cholesterol is called "bad" because high levels of it lead to atherosclerosis and narrowing of the arteries.

Early onset of Alzheimer's disease (before age 65) is relatively rare - about 10 percent of all cases. According to past research, this condition is largely genetically determined, that is, it can be inherited from parents. As is known today, in addition to APOE E4, three specific gene variants are associated with early Alzheimer's disease - APP (precursor of beta-amyloid - PBA), PSEN1 and PSEN2 (presenelin1 and presenelin2). However, these gene variants account for only about 10 percent of the cases.

The researchers sequenced specific regions of the genome in 2,125 people (654 with early-onset Alzheimer's disease, and 1,471 in the control group). They also tested blood samples from 267 participants to measure their LDL cholesterol.

Scientists have found that APOE E4 explains about 10 percent of early-onset Alzheimer's cases. About 3 percent of cases are associated with at least one of the known risk factors - APP, PSEN1 and PSEN2.

Testing of blood samples showed that participants with elevated LDL-C levels were more likely to have early-onset Alzheimer's disease compared to patients with normal cholesterol (even after considering the potential effects of the APOE E4 mutation). Therefore, cholesterol may be an independent risk factor.

No association was found between HDL (high-density lipoprotein - "good" cholesterol) levels and early-onset Alzheimer's disease; and the relationship between disease and triglyceride levels was very weak.

Scientists have also identified a new possible genetic risk factor for early Alzheimer's disease - a rare gene variant called APOB (apolipoprotein B). This gene encodes a protein involved in the metabolism of lipids or fats, including cholesterol.

The study sheds light on possible risk factors for early-onset Alzheimer's disease, but more research is needed to fully explain the link between the disease and cholesterol.

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