Your Brain and Cholesterol

A study led by Dr. Roelof Smit, a researcher at Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands, found that changes in LDL cholesterol levels may be especially damaging to cognitive functions—your memory, attention, language, and ability to reason.1

His study, published in the peer-review journal Circulation, followed more than 4,000 people between the ages of 70 and 82 taking statin, a medication that lowers LDL cholesterol. The researchers analyzed only people who had been taking statin for three months, comparing them to people who hadn’t taken it.

They found that people with the most variation in their LDL levels scored lower on cognitive tests: a color-word test for selective attention, letter-digit coding to assess information processing speed, and picture-word learning to test verbal memory in two ways.

“Our findings suggest for the first time that it’s not just the average level of your LDL-cholesterol that is related to brain health, but also how much your levels vary from one measurement to another,” Smit said.

Fluctuations in LDL can happen due to diet, exercise, or change in medications. Age may also be a factor, because of changes in the body’s ability to balance cholesterol levels correctly.


  1. Roelof A.J. Smit, et al., originally published 19 July 2016,, Circulation 2016; 134:212-221
Print Friendly, PDF & Email