July 20, 2008
High HDL Cholesterol Linked To Slower Brain Aging

Boost your HDL cholesterol to slow the decay of your brain. See below where I tell you what to do about it.

Low levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDL) the "good" cholesterol in middle age may increase the risk of memory loss and lead to dementia later in life, researchers reported in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Observing 3,673 participants (26.8 percent women) from the Whitehall II study, researchers found that falling levels of HDL cholesterol were predictors of declining memory by age 60. Whitehall II, which began in 1985, is long-term health examination of more than 10,000 British civil servants working in London.

"Memory problems are key in the diagnosis of dementia," said Archana Singh-Manoux, Ph.D., lead author of the study and Senior Research Fellow with the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research (INSERM, France) and the University College London in England. "We found that a low level of HDL may be a risk factor for memory loss in late midlife. This suggests that low HDL cholesterol might also be a risk factor for dementia."

Memory loss in your 50s and 60s is something to avoid.

Their main findings are:

  • At age 55, participants with low HDL cholesterol showed a 27 percent increased risk of memory loss when compared to those with high HDL.
  • At age 60, participants with low HDL had a 53 percent increased risk of memory loss compared to the high HDL group.
  • During the five years between phases 5 and 7, study members with decreasing HDL had a 61 percent increased risk of decline in their ability to remember words versus those with high HDL.
  • Men and women did not differ significantly in the link between lipids and memory loss, so researchers combined data from both sexes for analysis.
  • Total cholesterol and triglycerides did not show a link with memory decline.
  • Using statin drugs to raise HDL and/or lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad" cholesterol) showed no association with memory loss.

HDL cholesterol, which at high levels decreases the risk of heart attacks, serves several vital biological functions. It helps clear excess cholesterol from the blood; assists nerve-cell synapses to mature; and helps control the formation of beta-amyloid, the major component of the protein plaques found in the brains of Alzheimer's patients. Dementia most often occurs in people 65 years or older, the fastest growing age group in the industrialized world.

Brain aging is a huge cost on society and to us individually. Imagine that we did not cognitively decay at all in our 50s and 60s and even into our 70s. We'd stay more productive at work and therefore our economic output would be much higher and we'd earn more in the latter years of our working careers. We could work longer and work would be easier. We'd live better and we'd get more enjoyment out of life. We also would not become a huge burden on others.

Okay, so what to do about this information? In 2005 some Johns Hopkins cardiology experts reviewed the literature on what raises HDL cholesterol and here are their recommendations. Almost all these factors are already known as heart healthy lifestyle and diet practices.

To raise HDL cholesterol levels, the researchers recommend a regular exercise program of brisk aerobic exercise for 30 minutes, several times per week, if not every day.

Quitting smoking, they point out, provides an average increase in HDL levels of 4 milligrams per deciliter. Aids such as drug therapy, nicotine replacement products and counseling can help patients quit.

Weight control is also highlighted as critical to raising HDL levels, with the researchers noting that every kilogram of weight lost raises a patient's HDL levels by an average 0.35 milligrams per deciliter. A reasonable weight loss goal, they suggest, for overweight or obese patients is 1 pound, or 0.45 kilograms, per week, with a target body mass index of less than 25.

Mild to moderate consumption of alcohol, no more than one to two drinks per day, they say, has been shown beneficial in raising HDL levels by an average of 4 milligrams per deciliter, irrespective of type of alcohol consumed. But the researchers caution that the potential risks here may outweigh the benefits in people with liver or addiction problems.

For dietary control, the researchers recommend a diet low in saturated fat and rich in the polyunsaturated fatty acids found in foods such as oils (olive, canola, soy and flaxseed), nuts (almonds, peanuts, walnuts and pecans), and cold-water fish (salmon and mackerel), and shellfish. Consumption of carbohydrates, they say, should be restricted because high glycemic products, such as processed cereals and breads, are associated with lower HDL levels.

In the report, the researchers cite niacin, also called nicotinic acid or vitamin B3, as the most effective medication for raising HDL cholesterol, leading to increases of 20 percent to 35 percent. Fibrate therapy is also effective, they say, producing an average increase of 10 percent to 25 percent. Statins are the least effective of the three drug classes, used primarily to reduce LDL cholesterol, raising HDL levels by 2 percent to 15 percent. When used in combination, low-dose statins and high-dose niacin have been shown to produce benefits of 21 percent to 26 percent.

In April 2008 a group of researchers at Yonsei University in Seoul South Korea found that daily kale juice boosts HDL 27%.

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the effect of 3-month kale (Brassica oleracea acephala) juice supplementation on coronary artery disease risk factors among hypercholesterolemic men. METHODS: Thirty-two men with hypercholesterolemia (> 200 mg/dL) were recruited after annual health examinations among the faculty and staff at university. The subjects consumed 150 mL of kale juice per day for a 12-week intervention period. Dietary and anthropometric assessments were performed and blood samples were collected to evaluate biochemical profiles before and after supplementation. RESULTS: Serum concentrations of HDL-cholesterol, and HDL- to LDL-cholesterol ratio were significantly increased by 27% (P<0.0001) and 52% (P<0.0001), respectively.

I've read claims that a half onion per day might boost HDL. But I couldn't find good confirmation of this. Does anyone know about other foods with potent HDL-raising effects?

Fiber supplements raise HDL.

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 30 Fiber supplements lower "bad" low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and increase "good" high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes, according to a study presented at the American Heart Association's Sixth Annual Conference on Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology.

Pistachios probably help raise HDL too.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2008 July 20 07:23 PM  Aging Diet Brain Studies

HellKaiserRyo said at July 20, 2008 10:59 PM:

Anacetrapib might be waiting in the wings too. It, like the failed torcetrapib, is a CETP inhibitor.

MGOOG said at July 21, 2008 6:17 AM:

Take a look at www.cholesterolscore.com
This web-site, which is all about the therapeutic use of niacin, has many studies, professional opinions and dosage techniques that ameliorate much of the fear that's been spread by Big-Pharma, in the past. Niacin, B3, is not patentable. No medication has yet be found that improves all the blood/lipid numbers as well, or as safely, as niacin. Now, those same companies are scrambling to incorporate or alter niacin so that they can profit from this, otherwise, inexpensive medication.

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