Evidence in animals supports the idea that statins can cause ‘brain drain’

One of the more positive developments around statins of late, I think, has been the increasing awareness of the sorts of health issues they can induce. It is now becoming much more recognised, for instance, that these drugs can impact on mental functioning, including memory. Back in 2012, the FDA in the US issued a warning that: “There have been rare post-marketing reports of cognitive impairment (e.g. memory loss, forgetfulness, amnesia, memory impairment, confusion) associated with statin use.” I was therefore interested to read about a recent study that tested the impact of statins on memory in animals.

In this study, guinea pigs were treated with simvastatin (2 mg of drug per kg of animal per day) or atorvastatin (1 mg/kg/day) [1]. The researchers tested the effects of the drug on something known as ‘long term potentiation’ in a part of the brain known as the hippocampus. The hippocampus is believed to be the major seat in the brain of learning and memory, and improved long term potentiation is taken as a sign of improved functioning here. Both types of statin were found to reduce long term potentiation.

The guinea pigs were also exposed to a ‘water maze test’, which is often used in animal experiments to test learning and memory (particularly ‘spatial’ learning and memory). Statin therapy was found to significantly reduce what is termed as ‘working memory’ – the ability to hold multiple pieces information in the mind, and sometimes described as ‘short-term memory’. The authors of the study concluded that: “Our results may help to explain some of the behavioural changes reported in some people after beginning statin treatment.”

This is not the only study that has raised suspicions about the ability of statins to compromise brain function. In September I wrote about a similar study, this one published in the journal PLoS One. It tested the effects of two statins: pravastatin (Pravachol) or atorvastatin (Lipotor) on rats [2]. Before, during and after treatment, the rats were subjected to tests of learning and memory. Both these tests were adversely affected by pravastatin (but not atorvastatin).

I have met many people who claim that statins appeared to cause their memory and mental functioning to deteriorate. Some people appear to be more affected by others. It’s useful for individuals to be aware of this issue because increasing numbers of people are set to be prescribed statins if the new guidelines for cholesterol management (in the US) take hold. Often, when someone’s brain function drops off it’s assumed to be just ‘one of those things’, and part and parcel of the ageing process. Being mindful of the fact that statins (or some other medication) may be playing a role here can spare people a lot of suffering.


1. Maggo S, et al. Effects of HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors on learning and memory in the guinea pig. Eur J Pharmacol. 2013 Dec 1 [Epub ahead of print]

2. Stuart SA, et al. Chronic Pravastatin but Not Atorvastatin Treatment Impairs Cognitive Function in Two Rodent Models of Learning and Memory. PLoS ONE 8(9): e75467

14 Responses to Evidence in animals supports the idea that statins can cause ‘brain drain’

  1. Claire Holtey 20 December 2013 at 1:38 pm #

    When will they stop testing on animals? Will not listen to any evidence based on animal studies

  2. Marisa Choguill 20 December 2013 at 2:08 pm #

    Ah! This is a good information to argue with my GP when s/he says I need statins. Thanks!

  3. Marisa Choguill 20 December 2013 at 2:08 pm #

    Ah! This is a good information to argue with my GP when s/he says I need statins. Thanks!

  4. Mark 20 December 2013 at 3:01 pm #

    When will they stop testing on animals? Will not listen to any evidence based on animal studies

    In that case, I assume you’ll also stop taking any medication which was initially researched on animals (most of them) as well as stopping to take any advantage in the improvement of the human condition which came as a result of such testing.

    Whilst you’re doing that, you can also come up with (effective & ethical) ways to test the myriad of chemicals and compounds which need to be tested prior to human trials. Or maybe you could volunteer yourself?

    Animal testing, whilst not foolproof is the best we currently have.

  5. jean humphreys 20 December 2013 at 4:02 pm #

    For sure statins cause short term memory disfunction, and embarassing episodes of confusion. I took the dam’ things for two years, post CABG, and thought maybe I had had a mini-stroke during the op, or, perhaps it was early onset dementia of some sort. I stopped the pills because the muscle pain and weakness were making my life a misery, and, surprise, surprise, gradually I got use of my brain back. It was some time before I made the connection, and of course, none of it was reported by my GP, even though I did ask him if he was going to yellow card the muscle problems.

  6. Robert Park 20 December 2013 at 5:14 pm #

    Mark, you are referring only to allopathic medicine where the principal interest of the pharmaceutical industry is solely on profit; natural products have been shown to be beneficial and have not been tested on animals only on humans. Incidentally, and contrary to the cherished view of the mislead, saturated fat is a buffer against ill-health and so too is cholesterol which provides those essential hormones which provides us with the feel-good factor. When plaque was analysed it was found to contain a massive 70% from PUFAs but the pharmaceutical companies and the food industry do not want the public to know about this information so they spread disinformation. A neighbour of mine who has been on Statins for over 10 years has been out-of-touch with reality over the same period yet he and his wife believe that the problem is connected to ageing. He just happens to be the same age as myself and the only medication that I take is those of natural products such as Hawthorn or Serrapeptase for cardiac problems.

  7. Jules 20 December 2013 at 5:35 pm #

    I am no fan of statins, but when testing (on animals or otherwise) why is the dosage tested not comparable to ones prescribed in real life. If I were a guinea pig I should be on 120mg simvastatin. There can’t be many people actually prescribed that high a dose?

  8. Robert Simpkins 20 December 2013 at 5:45 pm #

    This is not news to me , I have been telling my doctors this for years , until it got to the point where I was having siezures , balance disorders, vision graying out , and was almost a idiot. Until one day I lost consciouness , went to the E.R. in a ambulance , my kidneys were shutting down , and my CK was almost 30000. I finally told my doctors I would rather die from a heart attack , than be dieing a little every day , and losing my mental capacity. While being treated for the effects of Rhabdomyolosis , I was also diagnosed with a rare blood cancer , a plasmacytoma a early symptom of Multiple Myeloma. I quit all the statins,and after 2 years,before I was really starting to feel somewhat better, I don’t believe that my mental capacity as far as memory , has ever fully recovered. After doing research I find that they are trying to promote statins as a possible treatment for Multiple Myeloma and other blood and bone cancers, go figure.

    Also none of the standard test that you have to take when on statins ever showed anything wrong, the only way to see if it is damaging you is to constantly have your CK checked.

    In 2011 I had a heart attack and had to take a helicopter ride to the trauma center , at that time after much pressure from my doctors , I agreed to take 1 , 5 mg of Crestor every other week and Zetia 10 mg 1week on 1week off. after the 2nd 5 mg of crestor , I could not remember my cats name, and was just confused about what medicine to take , could not drive because I could not focus on anything , Stoped all cholesterol meds again and recouped in about 3 weeks. Now I am not sure if it is so much the med I take ( because I have tried them all) or just the lowered Cholesterol. Now I was just at the cardiologist and failed my nuclear stress test , and again need to go for a Heart cath , and hopefully only stents.
    I did have surgury and Radiation for the plasmacytoma , and lost 50 lbs and got so weak I could not finish the last 3 treatments. It has been 5 years since treatment and have to be checked every 6 months for multiple myeloma so far no signs , Although since last check Compression fracture L4 and end plate fracture T9, now told I have ostioporosis , is that not a female disease. , Wish someone would do a study to see if there is a link between statins and increase in blood and bone cancers and ostioporosis. I will have to suffer the side effect of the treatment , for as lon as I live.

  9. paulc 20 December 2013 at 5:50 pm #

    ” Claire Holtey 20 December 2013 at 1:38 pm #

    When will they stop testing on animals? Will not listen to any evidence based on animal studies”

    so if you were diabetic would you refuse to use insulin? after all that involved testing on animals and involved surgically destroying dog’s pancreases to reproduce the effcts of t1 diabetes in dogs and also involved killing other dogs to extract insulin from their pancreases in order to “treay” those dogs whose pancreases had been disabled…


    “The biggest breakthrough came in 1921 when Frederick Banting and Charles Best conducted a series of experiments one summer in the laboratory of J.J. R. Macleod at the University of Toronto. Like Minkowski and von Mering, they showed that removing the pancreas from dogs made them diabetic.

    Then they went a step further and painstakingly took fluid from healthy dogs’ Islets of Langerhans, injected it into the diabetic dogs and restored them to normalcy – for as long as they had the extract.”

  10. Alex 21 December 2013 at 6:43 am #

    The study that needs to be done: “Doctors that prescribe statins, what is their cholesterol level and a complete history of their personal statin use.” Why not??? What do these criminals have to hide?
    They (statin prescribing doctors) are either stupid or they are liars. It is their oath to do no harm and therefore thoroughly research these poisons and keep the pharmaceutical giants at bay. Most of them don’t. Most doctors are brainwashed, indoctrinated monkeys in white coats practicing “Rockefeller medicine” (the medical field was taken over years ago and 99% of the sheep still don’t realize it).

    Statins are mycotoxins, they are poisons that come from fungi. They are only marginally effective for men, between the ages of 55 and 75, with cardiovascular disease and this marginal benefit has nothing to do with lowering cholesterol. The real way they seem to be partially beneficial is that they lower inflammation (by effecting Nuclear factor Kapa Beta) and they effect blood rheology. Its a pity that they lower cholesterol because studies, that have been covered-up by big pharma, show that elevated cholesterol and elevated LDLs are beneficial. What big pharma doesn’t tell you and the ignorant, indolent doctors is that while statins may lower the ABSOLUTE risk of a cardiac event by 1% to 2%, they increase the absolute risk of getting CANCER by 6% and a host of other adverse effects including memory loss that is often erroneously diagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease. Our brain constitutes 2% of our body by weight yet it absorbs and utilizes 25% of our body’s cholesterol. The synaptogenic factor through which neurons communicate with each other is cholesterol. The myelin that insulates our nerves, axons and dendrites is cholesterol. Medicine in this country, is run by arrogant, self-aggrandizing, pseudo-intellectual brainwashed, indoctrinated idiots.

    Akira Endo, Alfred Alberts, Joseph L. Goldstein, Daniel Steinberg, Michael Brown, P. Roy Vagelos, David Bilheimer, Scott M. Grundy, James MacDonald, and H Mabuchi are just a few of the criminals responsible for poisoning so many. I strongly suggest that everyone reading this post read the book “How Statin Drugs Really Lower Cholesterol and Kill You One Cell at a Time”, by James B. Yoseph and Hannah Yoseph, MD.

    If a Statin Drug has been prescribed for you, YOU WERE HARMED. SUE! Statins! is dedicated to protecting public health, improving patient care and keeping you well. If Mevacor™, Zocor™, Lipitor™, Crestor™, Baycol™ or any other Statin Drug has been prescribed for you, YOU WERE HARMED. You are eligible for compensation, colossus pecuniam. See http://www.suestatins.com

  11. Soul 21 December 2013 at 12:10 pm #

    Thanks for another nice article Dr. Briffa. Having Alzheimer’s run in the family, anything that can potentially bring about memory issues is of concern. It’s certainly a topic often talked about in my family, memory issues and ways to improve it as we age.

    On a different topic, thought to suggest an idea that you might look into, if you haven’t already. It might be another helpful tool for your practice. It’s along similar lines as grounding. I first learned about grounding or earthing on your sight. It took me awhile to warm up to the idea as it is greatly different than a typical health idea. In the end I’m glad I tried it, and at this point have gone full in with earthing as I’ve been using a grounding pad, grounding patches, and even now have grounded bed sheets. Sleep has typically been much improved as a result, along with aches and pains from exercise have greatly diminished. I suspect earthing might even been helping me with improved weight lifting grains.

    The new idea that is similar to earthing concerns structured water. I learned about this on Dr. Mercola’s sight. He interviewed Dr. Pollack from the University of Washington concerning his work with EZ water or negatively structured water. In the interview Dr. Pollack mentions that one way he believes structured water can be created in through grounding. The interview can be seen at:

    “The Fourth Phase of Water – What You Don’t Know About Water, and Really Should”


    Well I thought, I enjoy grounding why not try to make some structured water to see if it helps me too. My first try at structured water was to purchase a pricy Vortex water machines off of Amazon. It’s as it sounds, a magnetic twirling machine, with a timer, that at the bottom has a cage of different minerals that are believed to help improve structuring.

    When I first began drinking vortex water I was surprised at how it improved my energy levels. The item I noticed most was that after eating sugary items, instead of being tired I would feel wide awake and full of energy. (I’m not a big sugary food eater, but do enjoy dark chocolate.) Sadly, the vortex machine was to much for my stomach to handle. Not long after I began drinking this water, a few days later, maybe a week, I began to develop stomach issues. In the book it mentioned this could happen. They called it a cleaning phase. Possibly that is true, but personally I believe it to be from the minerals. The upset stomach result had a similar feel as when I eat or take to much magnesium. I have an IBD condition and so what might not effect others with normal GI tracts, can cause me issues, and most likely this is what’s happening in this case.

    So next, not deterred I found a simple magnetic item that can be connected to two natural spring bottles. With one bottle filled with spring water, the other empty, the water bottle can be turned upside down and rocked back and forth creating a vortex and hopfully creating some structure in the water. It can been here. This is a spiritual/ religious sight based more upon the structured water research done in Asia.


    Anyway, not to go on and on with this but, the new structured water I’m making seems to have a similar effect as the vortex machine. After drinking I feel more energetic and instead of being tired after eating my chocolate, I feel wide awake. The stomach issues hasn’t made an appearance. Fingers crossed that remains true.

    So after a study of one, It has me thinking that possibly structured water can help with diabetes, the thirst disease, and with that help with memory issues believed to be associated spiked glucose levels. Just a hunch, but of testimonials I read people report being able to lower diabetes medications or even go off them it is said after drinking structured water. Possibly that is the case, maybe not, but it is curious to me with what I’m noticing.

  12. Christopher Palmer 29 December 2013 at 7:10 pm #

    hi, your remarks are intriguing.
    Hedley Spargo is an individual who had been known to leave comments hereabouts. Hedley also contributed a review to the Earthing book on Amazon (UK?). Hedley is perceptive and his review is the reason I read the book, and I delayed ordering until I kinda figured the essentials for myself. After that I flagged it to Dr briffa and he subsequently blogged on the topic. It’s a small world after all. Between Hedley, myself and the doc we put you the way of a good thing.
    Water is fascinating. It is significantly magnetic – but don’t rush to test a glassful with a fridge magnet. The magnetism rests with each molecule and not the body of water. To tell the truth I have increasing feelings that the explanation of the molecular physics does not do it justice, and I have begun to wonder if the water molecule can be influenced in ways which marks an alteration to its properties and thence may convey some basic signal biochemistry may ‘read’. I lean to facets in the quantum domain as being candidates, but I haven’t delved far and I just don’t know. Ionization, I am sure, is not an all nothing thing, plus delta (partial) levels of ionization in proximity to a given molecule intimates native electrons could not be entirely native and may be able to move between nuclei, yet still balance delta charges. Liquid water has traits that trend to a macromolecule. It is a very fluid semi-macromolecules.
    The earthing thing and the prospect that the endocrine system is more sensitive to light than is commonly perceived has taught me the merit in an open mind, however Mercolas piece did not convince the sceptic in me. Then any discussion of the subject that does not invoke use if the term bihydride leaves me questioning it’s merit.
    Can you offer anything else that could convince me? Have you read the book, and can you lend assurances Dr Pollacks book is not .. .. nonsense? If so what are the most convincing aspects? I do truly want to understand what makes water so special.

  13. Moy Peralta 25 January 2014 at 1:00 am #

    My thanks to Alex for his posting, and especially for the suestatins link given.

    A comment on our own family statin-damage story is at:

    The RxISK website may prove useful to readers who have been harmed by prescription drugs.


  1. Start Sharing and Stop Caring - Weekly Roundup #80 - 24 December 2013

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