0103 GMT December 12, 2019
The findings follow a long debate about possible side effects of the daily pills, taken by around eight million adults in the UK to prevent heart attacks and strokes, telegraph.co.uk reported.
The six-year study of more than 1,000 people aged 70 to 90, who underwent a battery of tests and brain scans, found no link between statins and memory impairment.
And the Australian research, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, found that certain groups saw improvements in cognitive skills, after taking the drugs.
On one recall test, those with heart disease taking statins saw a boost of up to 13 percent, while those with genes which increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease saw performance improve by 16 percent.
Lead researcher Professor Katherine Samaras, head of the clinical obesity, nutrition and adipose biology lab at the Garvan Institute, Australia, said: "We carried out the most comprehensive analysis of cognition in elderly statin users to date, and found no results to support that cholesterol-lowering statins cause memory impairment."
"What we've come away with from this study is a reassurance for consumers to feel more confident about their statin prescription."
The researchers examined changes in the memory and global cognition regarding statin use over a six-year period and two years of brain volume studies.
Information was collected every two years on four occasions over the six-year period by psychologists and nurses, with clinicians diagnosing the presence of heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, hypertension and Type 2 diabetes.
On average, participants had been on statins for nine years.
The study assessed changes to the brain, measuring five areas of cognition using 13 different tests and MRI scans of the brain.
Over the six years, there was no difference in the rate of decline of memory or global cognition between those who had taken statins, compared with those who had not.
Further, the researchers found that in individuals with risk factors for dementia, including heart disease or diabetes, statin use slowed down cognitive decline, compared to those with the same risk factors who did not take statins.
Prof. Samaras added: "Our findings demonstrate how crucial a healthy metabolism is to brain function, and how therapies can modulate this to promote healthy ageing."
In an accompanying editorial, Dr. Costantino Iadecola and Dr. Neal S. Parikh, from Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City said: "These data support the view that worries about cognitive impairment should not limit statin use and raise the possibility that statins may favorably alter cognitive trajectories in a group of elders at high risk of Alzheimer's disease."
Dr. Sara Imarisio, from Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “Statins are drugs commonly prescribed to help reduce cholesterol in the blood and have a number of heart-health benefits. This research conducted in elderly people, finds that overall, statins had no negative effect on memory and thinking, and this is reassuring for statin users.
“While this research found a slower decline in certain memory and thinking skills in a small group of people who began taking statins, this doesn’t provide sufficient evidence to recommend statin treatment as a way to treat or prevent Alzheimer’s.”