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Diabetics may have dangerously low levels of cholesterol in the brain

Category: Diabetes

Cholesterol testing may benefit diabetics, though not for the reasons that most would assume. Rather than having excessively high cholesterol, individuals with the metabolic disease may have unnaturally low levels of cholesterol in their brain, which could contribute to cognitive deficiencies.

Cholesterol, though vilified when it comes to heart health, actually plays an important role in the connections between brain cells. Scientists have long known that deficiencies in metabolizing cholesterol may contribute to an increase in Alzheimer's risk. Additionally, diabetics are more prone to cognitive decline. The new findings may help explain this apparent connection.

Using a mouse model, researchers from the Joslin Diabetes Center found that the brains of diabetic test subjects stopped producing the level of cholesterol that is necessary for proper brain function.

"Since cholesterol is required by neurons to form synapses (connections) with other cells, this decrease in cholesterol could affect how nerves function for appetite regulation, behavior, memory and even pain and motor activity," said C. Roland Kahn, the study's lead author. "Thus, this has broad implications for people with diabetes."

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