Washington: Statins, a class of drugs used to lower cholesterol, could also help ward off Parkinson`s disease, particularly among people younger than 60, a new study has suggested.
The study involving more than 1,30,000 people found that people who took statins had 26 percent decreased risk of developing Parkinson`s disease over a 12-year period.
For those under the age of 60, the risk was reduced by 69 percent, found the study, published in the journal Archives of Neurology.
The results held even after taking into account other factors such as smoking that may raise the risk of Parkinson`s disease, the researchers said, but added that their findings should be interpreted with caution, LiveScience reported.
Past studies on whether statins reduce the risk of Parkinson`s disease have had mixed results, although a 2005 study found that the drugs do not worsen the disease.
In the new study, the researchers from Brigham and Women`s Hospital and Harvard School of Public Health in Boston followed 38,000 men and 91,000 women from 1994 to 2006. The study participants were periodically asked whether they were taking statins.
During the study period, 644 cases of Parkinson`s disease occurred -- 593 among the 118,031 people who did not take statins, and 51 among the 11,035 people who did take statins. For those over 60, there was no link between statin use and a lower risk of Parkinson`s disease.
"In summary, we observed an association between regular use of statins and lower risk of developing PD, particularly among younger patients," the researchers said.
Parkinson`s disease is a disorder of the brain that leads to shaking (tremors) and difficulty with walking, movement, and coordination, the researchers said.
Statins might lower the risk of the disease because they reduce inflammation in the brain, they added.
However, the researchers said that their study should be interpreted with caution as only approximately 70 per cent of users of cholesterol-lowering drugs at baseline were actual statin users.
"Further, the results were only marginally significant and could be due to chance," they said.
The researchers also noted that they did not collect information on the use of specific statins, which could have different effects on the central nervous system.
Among the study`s limitations are that it did not take into account the drugs` potencies, doses or abilities to cross into the brain, said Dr Fatta Nahab, an assistant professor of neurology and neuroscience at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, who was not involved in the study.
"Since the brain changes associated with Parkinson disease occur over years to decades, it will also be challenging to design clinical trials to observe the modest differences identified in this study," Nahab said.