They're going to try to sell you statins as a dementia preventive.

Your Secret Friend

Today’s e-Alert is an antidote to the toxic hogwash that may have infected the brains of millions of people who saw a recent CBS News report titled “Study Links Statins to Dementia Prevention.”

Taking statins to prevent dementia is like eating ice cream to prevent type 2 diabetes.

Before you call your doctor

The CBS report focused on a new study in which University of Michigan researchers monitored statin use and evidence of dementia among more than 1,700 people over the age of 60. The five-year study found that subjects who used statins were only half as likely to develop dementia compared to subjects who never used statins.

Researchers and reporters stress that these results are preliminary, so patients shouldn’t rush to their doctors and ask for a statin prescription to prevent dementia.

Good call.

Four years ago, this is what statin researcher Beatrice A. Golomb, M.D., Ph.D., wrote in the journal Geriatric Times: “Cognitive problems also occur with statins and may also have more impact in elderly patients. Two randomized trials that were designed to assess cognitive effects of statins have shown worsening in cognitive function (Muldoon et al., 2002, 2000). In addition, several case reports (King et al., 2003, 2001; Orsi et al., 2001) and one large case series (involving 60 patients) (Wagstaff et al., 2003) have reported deleterious cognitive effects of statins on memory and cognitive function.”

But wait – it gets much worse.

Cognitive side effects inevitable

Total global amnesia (TGA) is just as bad as it sounds – a condition in which memory is completely lost for periods ranging from several minutes to several hours.

In the e-Alert “Will it Float?” (3/6/08), I told you about Duane Graveline, M.D. – a former NASA astronaut. A few weeks after beginning statin treatment, Dr. Graveline suffered his first TGA experience and was unable to recognize his wife and children.

Suspecting the statin was to blame, he stopped taking the medication. Later his doctor convinced him to begin his statin regimen again, and again he suffered a TGA episode. For a period of about 12 hours, he completely lost all adult memories.

When Dr. Graveline’s experience was published in a newspaper column, hundreds of people wrote to share their experiences of memory loss associated with statin use. The enormous response inspired Dr. Graveline to devote himself to an investigation of statin- related TGA case histories which he detailed in a book titled “Lipitor: Thief of Memory” (Infinity Publishing, 2004).

In an article published on, Dr. Graveline debunks the absurd notion that cholesterol is somehow an enemy of the body. In fact, certain brain cells actually produce their own supply of cholesterol, necessary for the proper functioning of synapses that connect neurons. Interfere with that connection, and your thought processes won’t work smoothly.

In his article, Dr. Graveline writes, “One wonders how anyone knowing the mechanism of brain cholesterol synthesis can seriously challenge the inevitability of cognitive side effects from statin drug use.”

So how could the University of Michigan study come to the exact opposite conclusion? Hard to say. Perhaps there was a genetic influence involved (all of the subjects were of one specific cultural group). Or perhaps the bar was set too low for dementia diagnosis. And then there’s the study’s disclaimer that one of the researchers was employed by Pfizer, maker of Lipitor.

Personally, I’ll go with Dr. Graveline’s assessment before I let Pfizer mess around with my synapse connectors.

“Study Links Statins to Dementia Prevention” Dr. Jon LaPook, CBS Evening News, 7/28/08,
“Use of Statins and Incidence of Dementia and Cognitive Impairment Without Dementia in a Cohort Study” Neurology, Vol. 71, No. 5, 8/5/08, Statin Adverse Effects: Implications for the Elderly” Beatrice A. Golomb, M.D., Geriatric Times, Vol. 5, No. 3, May/June 2004,