Statins, Diabetes and Alzheimer’s

Statins are known to increase plasma glucose levels in the body, and an early study showed that taking statins was associated with a 27% increased in the risk of type-2 diabetes.

In a 2013 study using data taken from the Ontario Drug Benefit database, the Canadian Institute for Health Information Discharge Abstract Database and the Ontario Diabetes Database, researchers found that patients treated with atorvastatin were found to have a 22% increased risk of new-onset diabetes, rosuvastatin an 18% increased risk and simvastatin a 10% increased risk, relative to pravastatin (BMJ, 23 May 2013).

This followed a 2012 study amongst post-menopausal women on statins (Arch Intern Med. 2012 Jan 23;172(2):144-52. doi: 10.1001/archinternmed.2011.625. Epub 2012 Jan 9) where women who are given cholesterol-lowering statin medication had a 44 percent increased risk for becoming a type 2 diabetic.

Statins are a class of medications called 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase inhibitors, and they block a critical step in the production of LDL (bad) cholesterol in the liver thus reducing blood levels of LDL.

There is some evidence that they reduce inflammation in the body, and promote the health of the lining of blood vessels.

However, according to the Mayo Clinic, diabetes, in turn, doubles your risk for Alzheimer’s disease. This may be due to poor sugar control, links in inflammation, or the fact that diabetes is know to damage blood vessels and this might lead to problems of blood to the brain.

In 2005, a study by Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, identified one reason why people with type 2 diabetes had a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

They showed that your hippocampus, the part of the brain involved in learning and memory, seemed to be insensitive to insulin. So the researchers basically suggested diabetes and Alzheimer’s were the same disease, where your muscle, liver and brain tissues all became insulin insensitive.

It is well known by scientists that giving animals diet to replicate diabetes leaves their brains full of beta-amyloid plaque. Researchers have hypothesized that memory problems associated with diabetes are merely early stage Alzheimer’s.

The researchers also concluded that the amyloid build up was not a consequence of cognitive decline, but a cause and that they act to stop insulin activity.