The relationship between cholesterol and cognitive function is homocysteine-dependent

Yibin Cheng, Yinlong Jin, Frederick W. Unverzagt, Liqin Su, Lili Yang, Feng Ma, Ann M. Hake, Carla Kettler, Chen Chen, Jingyi Liu, Jianchao Bian, Ping Li, Jill R. Murrell, Hugh C. Hendrie, Sujuan Gao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Introduction: Previous studies have identified hyperlipidemia as a potential risk factor for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. However, studies on cholesterol measured in late-life and cognitive function have been inconsistent. Few studies have explored nonlinear relationships or considered interactions with other biomarker measures.

Methods: A cross-sectional sample of 1,889 participants from four rural counties in the People’s Republic of China was included in this analysis. Serum total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein, triglycerides, and homocysteine levels were measured in fasting blood samples. A composite cognitive score was derived based on nine standardized cognitive test scores. Analysis of covariance models were used to investigate the association between biomarker measures and the composite cognitive scores.

Results: There was a significant interaction between the homocysteine quartile group and the cholesterol quartile group on cognitive scores (P=0.0478). In participants with normal homocysteine levels, an inverse U-shaped relationship between total cholesterol level and cognitive score was found, indicating that both low and high cholesterol levels were associated with lower cognitive scores. In participants with high homocysteine levels, no significant association between cholesterol and cognition was found.

Conclusion: The relationship between cholesterol levels and cognitive function depends upon homocysteine levels, suggesting an interactive role between cholesterol and homocysteine on cognitive function in the elderly population. Additional research is required to confirm our findings in other populations, and to explore potential mechanisms underlying the lipid–homocysteine interaction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1823-1829
Number of pages7
JournalClinical interventions in aging
StatePublished - 2014


  • Cholesterol
  • Cognitive function
  • Homocysteine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology

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