Diet affects cholesterol drug

Copper and zinc in the diet could impair the action of statin drugs, compounds prescribed to lower cholesterol, say US scientists.

What started as a summer project in a lab at the University of Washington in Seattle led to an unexpected find. Douglas Fowler from Stanley Fields’ group came up with a project to study the effect of combining drugs with 52 metabolites on yeast cell growth. ‘At the end of the summer, we hadn’t gathered much useful data, but I was convinced that the idea was a good one,’ says Fowler. ‘We continued with the experiments and found an unexpected result – copper and zinc impaired statin effectiveness.’ 

Statins work by inhibiting an enzyme that’s responsible for cholesterol synthesis and are used to prevent heart disease. It’s known that metabolites – molecules that break down food to provide energy in a process called metabolism – in the body can interact with drugs, but understanding how these interactions happen could enhance drug performance and reduce side effects.

The team found that with lovastatin present, the metal ions had increased the level of proteins responsible for making ergosterol, a cholesterol analogue responsible for growth in yeast. They went on to test this in cultured mammalian cells too and got the same result with cholesterol.

Copper and zinc increased levels of ergosterol and related intermediates in the presence of lovastatin

Link to journal articleSuppression of statin effectiveness by copper and zinc in yeast and human cells
Douglas M. Fowler, Sara J. Cooper, Jason J. Stephany, Natalie Hendon, Sven Nelson and Stanley Fields,
Mol. BioSyst., 2011, 7, 533, DOI: 10.1039/c0mb00166j

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