Cholesterol-lowering drugs: Statins reduce brown adipose tissue....

Taking cholesterol-lowering drugs can help reduce the risk of heart disease. However, these drugs also increase the risk of certain conditions like diabetes. And as researchers have now found, statins also reduce the beneficial for the health brown adipose tissue.

Nutrition change and medication

About every third German citizen, the cholesterol is too high. An elevated cholesterol level can lead to diseases of the vessels, with possible consequences such as a heart attack or stroke. In order to lower the cholesterol, a diet change is usually recommended. Often also cholesterol-lowering drugs are used. However, medical specialists criticize the fact that such preparations are prescribed too often and in many cases do more harm than good as they can, among other things, cause muscle problems and increase the risk of diabetes. In addition, researchers have now found that reducing cholesterol also reduces the beneficial for the health of brown adipose tissue.

Adults have brown adipose tissue in addition to white

According to experts, humans possess not only white but also brown adipose tissue. The latter helps to convert sugar and fat into heat.

Those with brown adipose tissue can better regulate their body heat in winter and suffer less from obesity and diabetes.

An international team of researchers led by Christian Wolfrum Professor of the Translational Nutritional Biology Unit at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH Zurich) has now discovered that the drug class of statins reduces the formation of brown adipose tissue.

Statins lower blood cholesterol levels and help reduce heart attack risk prescribed. According to a statement from ETH Zurich, these preparations are among the most widely used medications worldwide.

 

Statins reduce activity of brown adipose tissue

 

Wolfrum and his colleagues have been researching brown adipose tissue for years. Scientists explored how the "bad" white fat cells that make up the known fat deposits produce "good" brown fat cells.

In cell culture experiments, they have now discovered that the pathway responsible for producing cholesterol plays a central role in this transformation.

The key molecule that regulates the transformation was identified by the researchers as the metabolite geranylgeranyl pyrophosphate.

As known from previous studies, the cholesterol pathway is also central to the action of statins , Among other things, statins lead to a reduced formation of geranylgeranyl pyrophosphate.

Therefore, the researchers wanted to know whether statins also influence the formation of brown adipose tissue. They are indeed doing that, as the scientists have now shown in studies in mice and humans.

Among other things, the experts evaluated positron emission tomography images of around 8,500 patients at the University Hospital in Zurich. In these pictures, the scientists were able to detect whether the persons possess brown adipose tissue.

In addition, the patients knew whether they had to take statins. The evaluation showed that among those who did not need to take such medication, six percent had brown adipose tissue. Only one percent of those taking statins had such tissue.

In an independent 16-person clinical study at the University Hospitals in Basel and Zurich, researchers were able to show that statins reduce the activity of brown adipose tissue.

 

Cholesterol-lowering drugs save millions of lives

 

Although the study reveals a negative effect of statins, the ETH Zurich professor warns against misinterpreting them.  "One must also weigh in the balance that statins are incredibly important for the prevention of cardiovascular diseases. These medicines save many millions of people worldwide and are prescribed for good reasons, "said Wolfrum.

However, there is another negative effect of statins: taken high doses, they increase the risk of developing diabetes in certain people, such as from other studies.

"These two effects – the reduction of brown adipose tissue and the slightly increased risk of diabetes – may be related," says Wolfrum. However, this must first be examined in more detail.

But even if such a connection were to prove true, it would not be a matter of demonizing statins, emphasizes the ETH professor.

 

Rather, one would have to investigate the mechanisms of action in further research investigate which patients are affected by the negative effects.

It may be possible to continue to recommend statins with personalized medicine approaches in the majority of patients but would suggest alternative therapies to a small group of patients. (Ad)


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