In the US, more than 38% of adults suffer from high levels of blood cholesterol which makes them more prone to the risk of stroke and heart attacks. One of the solutions to decrease the levels of serum cholesterol is to intake drugs that are cholesterol-lowering known as statins.
Researchers Evaluate Statins: Are They The New Cholesterol?
However, while multiple data shows that this drug reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases, recent research suggests that it might worsen type two diabetes. A Review article was published in the journal known as Trends in Pharmacological Sciences. It argues to develop a kind of medication that reduces another class of lipids’ levels. Researchers call these molecules ceramides.
Ceramides, like cholesterol, are a type of lipid or fatty molecule that plays an important role in the cell membrane’s structure and other lipids’ synthesis.
The Researchers of the study point out that there is a strong association between high concentrations of serum ceramides and diabetes and heart diseases in humans. They also noted that many clinics now evaluate the levels of ceramide to assess the risk of patients with these conditions.
Moreover, experiments conducted in laboratories on rodents consuming diets with high fats suggests that for diabetes and heart disease, ceramides are somewhat responsible. They are not just incidental byproducts.
When researchers use genetic means or drugs to reduce ceramides’ synthesis in animals, it prevents animals from developing conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
Other studies or animals have found that fat storage can be increased by ceramides. It can decrease the use of glucose and reduce mitochondria’s efficiency, which is cells’ power plants.
These are metabolic syndrome hallmarks, obesity, high blood pressure and a combination of diabetes, which puts a person at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Salt Lake City’s University of Utah College of Health PhD, Dr. Scott Summers said that they want to set up as many labs as possible to study this molecule because it is very important. Talking to Medical News Today, Summers said that multiple companies along with the one he co-founded that is known as Centaurus Therapeutics are trying to develop interventions that are ceramide lowering.
He added that none of these companies has entered clinics, but they are close.
In addition to cholesterol, statins lower ceramides’ levels in the bloodstream. However, the medications don’t stem the ceramides’ production in the body.
Explaining to Medical News Today, Dr. Summers said that statins block the synthesis of cholesterol which leads to the production of lipoprotein and its secretion. They don’t block the synthesis of ceramides directly, rather they reduce ceramide circulation because of the impact on lipoproteins.
He further explained that ceramides apply their adverse effects on liver tissues well other than directly in the bloodstream. He said that the major problem is they work on tissues and not in the blood.
He added that as a result, it accumulates in the liver which is highly problematic. He said that this could account for statins’ side effects like an increase in type two diabetes risk.
He said that statin therapy added with ceramide-lowering therapy is something that should be investigated.
The University of Basel in Switzerland’s sports and exercise medicine specialist, Dr. Justin Carrad recently published an article in Metabolites. He wrote about physical exercise effects on levels of ceramides.
The study points to primary evidence that frequent exercise reduces levels of ceramides. Additionally, people with high cardiorespiratory fitness usually have low ceramide levels.
He told MNT that there is abundant scientific evidence that the future biomarkers of cardiovascular diseases are ceramides. He said that more research is necessary to establish a link between lowering the level of ceramide with physical activity. He added that he believes this area will become one with a new interest in the medical community.