Pieces coming together in Parkinson's, cholesterol puzzle

April 5, 2008

In 2006, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers published a study that found people with low levels of LDL cholesterol are more likely to have Parkinson's disease than people with high LDL levels.

But that study could not answer the question of whether low LDL (low-density lipoprotein) levels were present in study participants before they were diagnosed with Parkinson’s, or if they developed low LDL levels after being diagnosed.

Now a follow-up study led by UNC researchers in collaboration with colleagues in Virginia, Hawaii and Japan has found that low LDL levels were present in a group of men of Japanese ancestry long before these men were diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

“This finding gives us one more piece in the puzzle about the role of cholesterol in Parkinson’s disease,” said Dr. Xuemei Huang, the study’s principal investigator. Huang is also medical director of the Movement Disorder Clinic at UNC Hospitals and an assistant professor of neurology in the UNC School of Medicine.

“What makes these results especially useful is the fact that most of the men in this study were not taking cholesterol-lowering drugs such as statins,” Huang said. “This suggests that the association between low LDL levels and Parkinson’s exists independently from statin use, which helps answer another important question raised by our earlier study.”

The new study was published online this week by the journal Movement Disorders. Huang is the lead author. Her co-authors include Drs. G. Webster Ross and Helen Petrovitch, who are both with the Pacific Health Research Institute, the Veterans Affairs Pacific Islands Health Care System and the University of Hawaii; Dr. Robert D. Abbott of the University of Virginia and Shiga University in Japan; and Dr. Richard B. Mailman, a professor of psychiatry and pharmacology at the UNC School of Medicine.

Low levels of LDL cholesterol are clearly associated with good cardiovascular health. Huang’s research adds to a growing literature indicating that people with low LDL may be at greater risk for developing Parkinson’s.

“Our study again shows an association between low cholesterol and the risk of Parkinson’s disease, but we have not shown cause and effect,” Huang said. “People taking statins for valid medical reasons should not stop simply to avoid Parkinson’s.”

For this prospective study, fasting lipids were measured from 1991 to 1993 in a group of 3,233 men of Japanese ancestry who took part in a long-running study called the Honolulu-Asia Aging Study. These data were collected before statin therapy for lowering cholesterol was widely available. When followed for about ten years, the incidence of Parkinson’s disease increased with decreasing levels of LDL cholesterol.

After adjusting their statistical analysis for age, smoking, coffee intake and other factors, the researchers calculated that the relative odds of Parkinson’s for men with lower LDL levels (85 milligrams per deciliter) was about twice that of those with higher LDL levels (135 milligrams per deciliter). They concluded that this study supports the hypothesis that low LDL levels are associated with an increased future risk of Parkinson’s.

Huang said more research is needed to confirm these findings, with logical next steps including conducting studies with larger sample sizes and that include women and African-Americans.

Source: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Explore further: LDL-C still high in autosomal recessive hypercholesterolemia

Related Stories

LDL-C still high in autosomal recessive hypercholesterolemia

January 19, 2018
(HealthDay)—For patients with autosomal recessive hypercholesterolemia (ARH), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) levels remain high despite intensive treatment, according to a study published in the Jan. 23 issue ...

Aged garlic extract may help obese adults combat inflammation, study suggests

January 18, 2018
Aged garlic extract may help obese people ward off painful inflammation and lower cholesterol levels, a new University of Florida study shows.

New cholesterol calculation may avoid need to fast before testing, study suggests

January 2, 2018
In a direct comparison study, Johns Hopkins researchers have added to evidence that a newer method of calculating so-called "bad cholesterol" levels in the blood is more accurate than the older method in people who did not ...

New hope for stopping an understudied heart disease in its tracks

December 25, 2017
The diminutive size of our aortic valve—just shy of a quarter—belies its essential role in pushing oxygen-rich blood from the heart into the aorta, our body's largest vessel, and from there to all other organs. Yet for ...

Camelina oil improves blood lipid profile

January 8, 2018
The use of camelina oil reduces overall and LDL cholesterol levels in persons with impaired glucose metabolism, according to a new study from the University of Eastern Finland. The findings were published in Molecular Nutrition ...

Measuring plasma PCSK9 may ID resistance to PCSK9 inhibitors

November 29, 2017
(HealthDay)—Plasma levels of proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 (PCSK9) may help assess apparent resistance to PCSK9 inhibitors, according to a research letter published online Nov. 28 in the Annals of Internal ...

Recommended for you

How metal scaffolds enhance the bone healing process

January 22, 2018
A new study shows how mechanically optimized constructs known as titanium-mesh scaffolds can optimize bone regeneration. The induction of bone regeneration is of importance when treating large bone defects. As demonstrated ...

Bioengineered soft microfibers improve T-cell production

January 18, 2018
T cells play a key role in the body's immune response against pathogens. As a new class of therapeutic approaches, T cells are being harnessed to fight cancer, promising more precise, longer-lasting mitigation than traditional, ...

Weight flux alters molecular profile, study finds

January 17, 2018
The human body undergoes dramatic changes during even short periods of weight gain and loss, according to a study led by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Secrets of longevity protein revealed in new study

January 17, 2018
Named after the Greek goddess who spun the thread of life, Klotho proteins play an important role in the regulation of longevity and metabolism. In a recent Yale-led study, researchers revealed the three-dimensional structure ...

The HLF gene protects blood stem cells by maintaining them in a resting state

January 17, 2018
The HLF gene is necessary for maintaining blood stem cells in a resting state, which is crucial for ensuring normal blood production. This has been shown by a new research study from Lund University in Sweden published in ...

Magnetically applied MicroRNAs could one day help relieve constipation

January 17, 2018
Constipation is an underestimated and debilitating medical issue related to the opioid epidemic. As a growing concern, researchers look to new tools to help patients with this side effect of opioid use and aging.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.