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Original Investigation
May 12, 2003

Plasma Total Cholesterol Level as a Risk Factor for Alzheimer Disease: The Framingham Study

Author Affiliations

From the Division on Aging, Harvard Medical School (Drs Tan and Kiel), the Departments of Neurology (Drs Seshadri and Wolf and Mr Tocco) and Medicine (Dr Wilson), Boston University School of Medicine, the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Boston University School of Public Health (Dr Beiser), the Hebrew Rehabilitation Center for Aged Research and Training Institute (Drs Tan and Kiel), and the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Boston University (Dr D'Agostino), Boston, Mass. The authors have no relevant financial interest in this article.

From the Division on Aging, Harvard Medical School (Drs Tan and Kiel), the Departments of Neurology (Drs Seshadri and Wolf and Mr Tocco) and Medicine (Dr Wilson), Boston University School of Medicine, the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Boston University School of Public Health (Dr Beiser), the Hebrew Rehabilitation Center for Aged Research and Training Institute (Drs Tan and Kiel), and the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Boston University (Dr D'Agostino), Boston, Mass. The authors have no relevant financial interest in this article.

Arch Intern Med. 2003;163(9):1053-1057. doi:10.1001/archinte.163.9.1053
Abstract

Background  Previous studies examining the association of plasma cholesterol levels with the risk for development of Alzheimer disease (AD) have been inconclusive. We examined the impact of baseline and lifetime plasma total cholesterol levels averaged across many years on the risk for AD in a large, population-based cohort.

Methods  Five thousand two hundred nine subjects from the Framingham Study original cohort underwent biennial evaluation for cardiovascular risk factors since 1950, with estimations of serum total cholesterol levels at 19 of these 25 biennial examinations. The study sample consisted of 1026 subjects from this cohort who were alive and free of stroke and dementia at examination cycle 20 (1988-1989) and had undergone apolipoprotein E (APOE) genotyping. The main outcome measure was incident AD diagnosed using standard criteria, according to average total cholesterol levels across biennial examination cycles 1 to 15 and baseline total cholesterol level measured at the 20th biennial examination cycle.

Results  Alzheimer disease developed in 77 subjects from 1992 to 2000. After adjustment for age, sex, APOE genotype, smoking, body mass index (calculated as weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters), coronary heart disease, and diabetes, we found no significant association between the risk for incident AD and average cholesterol level at biennial examination cycles 1 to 15 (hazard ratio per 10-mg/dL [0.3-mmol/L] rise, 0.95; 95% confidence interval, 0.87-1.04) or baseline total cholesterol level at examination 20 (hazard ratio, 0.97; 95% confidence interval, 0.90-1.05).

Conclusion  In this large, population-based cohort, baseline and long-term average serum total cholesterol levels were not associated with the risk for incident AD.

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