Research suggests that the commonly prescribed statin pravastatin may adversely affect cognitive function. Neil Marrion, Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Bristol’s School of Physiology and Pharmacology, United Kingdom, and colleagues studied the effect of the commonly prescribed statins pravastatin and atorvostatin on learning and memory in rats. Results showed that pravastatin significantly impaired performance in simple learning and memory tasks, although the effect was fully reversible once treatment ended. No adverse cognitive effects were observed in rats treated with atorvastatin.

Reducing cholesterol levels in your body has been associated with a decreased risk of developing cardiovascular disease. However, one cannot forget the rest of the body while focusing on just the heart. We all need some cholesterol for brain function, to make hormones, and many other functions.

When we physicians see our patients have high cholesterol, many feel it is necessary to reduce the levels to lessen your heart attack risk. Many times it is necessary to do this with drugs called statins. Statins are medicines that are prescribed to help protect healthy, but high-risk, people from heart disease and to prevent repeated problems in people who have already had a heart attack, a stroke or peripheral artery disease.

However, if you develop a side effect from these drugs you may have to discontinue the statin and do something different to decrease heart disease risk. The most common unwanted side effect is muscle weakness, which is commonly known and seen by most physicians. However, a lesser realized potential side effect can also be a decrease in mental cognition.

Recent new research investigated two commonly prescribed statin medicines and if they adversely affected cognitive function. The results showed that one of the drugs tested caused memory impairment in rats.

The study was performed in England, led by scientists at the University of Bristol and published in the journal PLOS ONE. It tested pravastatin and atorvastatin, two commonly prescribed statins, in rat learning and memory models. The findings show that they still could do simple learning and memory, their performance of these tasks was lessened with use of pravastatin. Fortunately, this effect was fully reversed once treatment ceased

The author’s conclusion was that overall, these findings support already noted clinical observations that statins have adverse cognitive effects in certain patients undergoing long-term treatment. All statins have been reported to potentially affect cognition and the whole class carries an FDA warning. They recommended further evaluations should be pursued.

At our office in Dallas, TX, we have seen similar reactions. It is known that the brain requires adequate cholesterol to function properly and low cholesterol has been associated with some cognitive impairment per se. Therefore, we try to give statins only in very low dose when needed. However, if possible, we prefer more natural alternative methods to decrease cholesterol and decrease heart disease.

These methods include weight loss and maintaining an appropriate weights, adequate exercise, and natural products that decrease cholesterol. These may include the use of Bergamet, which is a naturally occurring substance derived from a citrus fruit only found in southern Italy. Taken twice a day, Bergamet has been shown to decrease cholesterol levels by around a third. Thus, proper cholesterol levels may be achieved without exposing the brain to statin drugs. If you would like further information on improving your health naturally, make an appointment to see Dr. True at 817-399-8783.

The paper ‘Chronic Pravastatin but Not Atorvastatin Treatment Impairs Cognitive Function in Two Rodent Models of Learning and Memory’ by Stuart SA, Robertson JD, Marrion NV, Robinson ESJ is published in PLOS ONE : e75467. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0075467