When we hear mention of the word, ‘cholesterol’ it invariably triggers bad connotations. It gets a bad rap because it is implicated with a narrowing of our arteries, heart disease and stroke, to name just a few nasties. So, over time we’ve been conditioned to think of all cholesterol as bad. In actual fact, this fat-like substance is critical to the healthy functioning of our bodies, being an integral part of the membranes (or walls) of every cell within our bodies. Cholesterol is absolutely critical to the structure of a healthy brain and nervous system. The myelin coating of every nerve cell (neuron) and nerve fibre (axon) in our bodies, which acts in the same way an insulating cover does around electric wires, relies heavily cholesterol for its production.
The connection and flow of information between neurons occurs across ‘synapses’ and the more of these we have, the healthier our brain and cognitive abilities are. The neurodegenerative process of Alzheimer’s causes these connections to break-down and the neurons themselves to die. Cholesterol is crucial to the formation of these synapses. So why then would high cholesterol be a risk factor for Alzheimer’s?