Older people with higher levels of triglycerides, a common type of fat in the blood, may face a reduced risk of dementia and a slower cognitive decline compared to those with lower triglyceride levels, according to a recent study published in Neurology.
Although the research establishes a connection, it does not demonstrate that higher triglyceride levels directly prevent dementia.
Triglycerides are a type of fatty acid and constitute the predominant form of fat found in the bloodstream.
These molecules serve as a primary source of energy for the brain and account for up to 95% of dietary fats. Elevated triglyceride levels can be influenced by various factors, including genetics and lifestyle choices.
Study Details and Findings
The study, led by Dr. Zhen Zhou of Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, analyzed healthcare data from 18,294 individuals, with an average age of 75, who had not been previously diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
Over an average follow-up period of six years, 823 participants developed dementia.
Researchers assessed participants’ measurements of total cholesterol, triglycerides, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL), and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) annually.
They categorized participants into four groups based on their fasting triglyceride levels, with the overall average being 106 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). A healthy triglyceride level for adults typically falls below 150 mg/dL.
After accounting for factors such as educational background and cholesterol-lowering treatments that could impact dementia risk, the study revealed that each doubling of triglyceride levels corresponded to an 18% reduction in the risk of developing dementia.
Lowest Triglyceride Group (Less than 62 mg/dL): This group had a 6% dementia incidence.
Second Group (63 to 106 mg/dL): Participants in this group were 15% less likely to develop dementia compared to the lowest group.
Third Group (107 to 186 mg/dL): Individuals in this group had a 24% reduced risk of dementia compared to the lowest group.
Fourth Group (187 mg/dL or Higher): Those in the highest triglyceride group exhibited a 36% decreased risk of dementia compared to the lowest group.
The results were further validated in a separate dataset comprising 68,200 older individuals from the United Kingdom.
Over an average period of 12 years, 2,778 individuals developed dementia, and the findings consistently showed a 17% lowered dementia risk associated with every doubling of triglyceride levels.
Cognitive Benefits of Higher Triglycerides
In addition to a reduced dementia risk, the study revealed that higher triglyceride levels were linked to a slower decline in composite cognition, a combined measure derived from assessments of global function, psychomotor speed, language, executive function, and memory over time.
Future Research and Implications
Dr. Zhou emphasized the need for further research to explore whether specific components within triglycerides might promote better cognitive function. The ultimate goal is to develop new preventive strategies for dementia.
It’s important to note that this study specifically focused on individuals aged 65 and older who initially displayed no cognitive issues.
Consequently, the findings may not be applicable to younger populations or those with preexisting cognitive conditions.
In conclusion, while the study suggests a potential association between higher triglyceride levels and reduced dementia risk, more research is necessary to fully understand the underlying mechanisms and to determine whether specific interventions based on triglyceride levels could help prevent cognitive decline in older adults.
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The research findings can be found in Neurology.
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