27-Hydroxycholesterol, cognition, and brain imaging markers in the FINGER randomized controlled trial

Alzheimers Res Ther. 2021 Mar 6;13(1):56. doi: 10.1186/s13195-021-00790-y.


Background: 27-Hydroxycholesterol (27-OH), the main circulating oxysterol in humans and the potential missing link between peripheral hypercholesterolemia and Alzheimer's disease (AD), has not been investigated previously in relation to cognition and neuroimaging markers in the context of preventive interventions.

Methods: The 2-year Finnish Geriatric Intervention Study to Prevent Cognitive Impairment and Disability (FINGER) included older individuals (60-77 years) at increased risk for dementia but without dementia or substantial cognitive impairment from the general population. Participants were randomized to a multidomain intervention (diet, exercise, cognitive training, and vascular risk management) or control group (general health advice) in a 1:1 ratio. Outcome assessors were masked to group allocation. This FINGER exploratory sub-study included 47 participants with measures of 27-OH, cognition, brain MRI, brain FDG-PET, and PiB-PET. Linear regression models were used to assess the cross-sectional and longitudinal associations between 27-OH, cognition, and neuroimaging markers, considering several potential confounders/intervention effect modifiers.

Results: 27-OH reduction during the intervention was associated with improvement in cognition (especially memory). This was not observed in the control group. The intervention reduced 27-OH particularly in individuals with the highest 27-OH levels and younger age. No associations were found between changes in 27-OH levels and neuroimaging markers. However, at baseline, a higher 27-OH was associated with lower total gray matter and hippocampal volume, and lower cognitive scores. These associations were unaffected by total cholesterol levels. While sex seemed to influence associations at baseline, it did not affect longitudinal associations.

Conclusion: 27-OH appears to be a marker not only for dementia/AD risk, but also for monitoring the effects of preventive interventions on cholesterol metabolism.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov , NCT01041989 . Registered on 4 January 2010.

Keywords: 27-Hydroxycholesterol; Biomarkers; Cholesterol metabolism; Dementia; Multimodal intervention.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Cognition*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Finland
  • Humans
  • Hydroxycholesterols
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Neuroimaging
  • Neuropsychological Tests


  • Hydroxycholesterols
  • 27-hydroxycholesterol

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01041989