Cholesterol good for the brain

Having a high level of HDL cholesterol is associated with reducing your risk for Alzheimer’s. It also lowers your risk for heart disease.

A study out today in the Archives of Neurology [Arch Neurol. 2010;67[12]:1491-1497] finds that having a high level of HDL cholesterol lowers risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Previous studies have also confirmed that high HDL cholesterol lowers risk for heart disease as well. So, if higher HDL levels are good for you how do you raise them? The answer is by eating a low GL diet and supplementing niacin. Niacin not only lowers cholesterol better than any drug, but it also raises HDL and helps unblock arteries.

Another study just out gave those with high cholesterol a combination of simvastin and niacin, starting with 10mg of simvastatin and 250mg of extended-release niacin, building up to 20mg of simvastatin and 500mg of niacin. Only 10% of people experience flushing, an effect of high dose niacin, by increasing niacin dose in this fashion. Up went HDL cholesterol, and down went total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides which is exactly what you want. There is also evidence that niacin improves memory. I take 50mg a day, as part of my multivitamin and a ‘brain food’ formula.

If you’d like to find out more about Alzheimer’s prevention my new, revised and updated book, the Alzheimer’s Prevention Plan, is now available on line. It will be launched into the shops in the New Year. Since a large proportion of the brain is made from cholesterol it makes no sense to eat a low cholesterol diet by avoiding eggs which are packed with homocysteine-lowering and brain friendly phospholipids. I make a point to eat, at least, six eggs a week – free-range, organic of course. This is no real evidence, by the way, that cholesterol lowering statin drugs reduce risk of Alzheimer’s, although this is often touted as a benefit by pharma marketeers.

The real way to get your Alzheimer’s risk down is with homocysteine-lowering B vitamins. Despite decades of zero evidence, people still think that eating eggs raises blood cholesterol or increases risk for heart disease. This is simply untrue but remains one of the most prevalent diet myths of all. Doctors, who should no better, still tout the line of avoiding eggs because they are high in cholesterol. If your doctor says this to you ask them to show you the evidence.