The brain plays a role in regulating the amount of cholesterol circulating in the blood, says a study that challenges the belief that cholesterol levels are influenced only by what you eat and by cholesterol production in the liver.
University of Cincinnati researchers concluded that the hunger hormone called ghrelin acts as a "remote control" for cholesterol. Their tests in mice found that higher levels of ghrelin were associated with higher levels of cholesterol circulating in the bloodstream, BBC News reported.
Cholesterol levels in the blood increased when signals from the brain told the liver to store less cholesterol, the researchers said. The study appears in the journal Nature Neuroscience.
"We have long thought that cholesterol is exclusively regulated through dietary absorption or synthesis and secretion by the liver," said study leader Professor Matthias Tschoep. "Our study shows for the first time that cholesterol is also under direct 'remote control' by specific neurocircuitry in the central nervous system."
While the findings need to be replicated in humans, this research "could potentially open up new forms of treatment to control cholesterol levels, which would be great news for people with heart and circulation problems," Fotini Rozakeas, a cardiac nurse with the British Heart Foundation, told BBC News.
- (EurekAlert, June 2010)