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Boston University researcher Benjamin Wolozin found that a popular statin drug helped reduce the occurrence of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease in a study group of over 700,000.

Statin drugs are commonly used to reduce cholesterol levels in patients. The three most common types of statin drugs are: simvastatin, lovastatin, and atorvastatin. What Wolozin did was to search the U.S. Veterans Affairs Medical System looking for patients being prescribed one of the three statin types. He knew statistically the rate of occurance for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. What he discovered is that the lovastatin type of statin had a rate of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s that was expected.

The statin type atorvastatin showed a 10% reduction in the occurrence of Alzheimer’s disease.

What was surprising to Wolozin is that for those Veterans using the 3rd type of statin , simvastatin, the incident rate for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s was 50% lower than what would be expected. He suspects it is because this type of statin, sold as Zocor, blocks a cholesterol-producing enzyme called HMG-CoA reductase that may also affect the production of other chemicals. Simvastatin reduces inflammation and increases the production of some growth factors in the brain, which may make neurons more capable of resisting chronic degenerative disease.

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