Lipid metabolism in cognitive decline and dementia

Brain Res Rev. 2006 Aug;51(2):275-92. doi: 10.1016/j.brainresrev.2005.11.007. Epub 2006 Jan 10.


This review will focus on the current knowledge on circulating serum and plasma risk factors of cognitive decline of degenerative (Alzheimer's disease, AD) or vascular origin (vascular dementia, VaD) linked to cholesterol homeostasis and lipoprotein disturbances, i.e. total cholesterol (TC), 24S-hydroxy-cholesterol, lipoprotein(a) (Lp(a)), or apolipoprotein E (APOE). These measures linked to lipoprotein metabolism appear to be altered in AD, VaD, or predementia syndrome relative to controls, but with contrasting results. At present, several studies have demonstrated the dependence of APOE serum levels upon the APOE genotype, nonetheless serum APOE levels seems not to be a credible risk factor or a biochemical marker for AD instead of APOE genotyping. In fact, there was no consistent association of serum or plasma apoE protein levels with the disease when controlled for APOE genotype. In addition, there are some evidence that higher Lp(a) levels could be linked with AD, although there are studies suggesting an increased presence of low molecular weight apo(a) in AD, VaD, and frontotemporal dementia, that are associated with elevated Lp(a) levels. In fact, the apo(a) gene is highly polymorphic in length due to variation in the numbers of a sequence encoding the apo(a) kringle 4 domain, and plasma levels of Lp(a) are inversely correlated with apo(a) size. Furthermore, although serum/plasma levels of TC and 24S-hydroxycholesterol are not credible diagnostic markers for AD and cognitive decline, the current evidence suggests that they may be modifiable risk/protective factors. The prevailing wisdom is that high TC is a risk factor for dementia. However, the relationship between TC and dementia may vary considerably depending on when cholesterol is measured over the life course or, alternatively, in relation to the underlying course of the disease. Several observational studies have suggested that statins, which are effective in lowering cholesterol, may reduce the risk of dementia, but the results of these reports are inconclusive. Thus, more studies with long-term follow-up and serial assessments of TC are needed to further clarify the causal relationship between cholesterol and dementia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apolipoproteins E / blood
  • Apolipoproteins E / genetics
  • Cholesterol / blood*
  • Cognition Disorders / blood*
  • Cognition Disorders / physiopathology
  • Dementia, Vascular / blood*
  • Dementia, Vascular / physiopathology
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / genetics
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Lipids / blood*
  • Lipoprotein(a) / blood
  • Risk Factors


  • Apolipoproteins E
  • Lipids
  • Lipoprotein(a)
  • Cholesterol