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Cholesterol's Role in Parkinson's Remains Elusive

Study finds a paradox as subjects with low levels of 'bad' LDL more likely to have disease

THURSDAY, Dec. 28, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- People with low levels of "bad" low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol are more likely to have Parkinson's disease than people with high LDL levels, a new study says.

Low levels of LDL cholesterol are considered be an indicator of good cardiovascular health.

Conducted by researchers at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill, the study of 124 Parkinson's disease patients and 112 people without the disease found that people with lower LDL levels (less than 114 milligrams per deciliter) had a 3.5-fold higher occurrence of Parkinson's than people with higher LDL levels (more than 138 milligrams per deciliter).

Parkinson's patients were also less likely to take cholesterol-lowering drugs than people without the disease, said the study, which was published online Dec. 15 in the journal Movement Disorders.

These findings should not prompt people to change their eating habits or their use of statins and other cholesterol-lowering drugs in an attempt to prevent Parkinson's disease, said study author Dr. Xuemei Huang, medical director of the Movement Disorder Clinic at UNC Hospitals and an assistant professor of neurology in the UNC School of Medicine.

Huang cautioned that these are preliminary results from a small study and that larger, prospective studies are needed to learn more about the association between LDL levels and Parkinson's disease.

"Parkinson's disease is full of paradoxes. We've known for years that smoking reduces the risk of developing Parkinson's. More than 40 studies have documented that fact. But we don't advise people to smoke because of the other more serious health risks," Huang said in a prepared statement.

Two questions need to be looked at in future studies.

"One is whether lower cholesterol predates the onset of Parkinson's. Number two, what is the role of statins in that? In other words, does taking cholesterol-lowering drugs somehow protect against Parkinson's? We need to address these questions," Huang said.

More information

We Move has more about Parkinson's disease.

SOURCE: University of North Carolina School of Medicine, news release, Dec. 18, 2006
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