Regular use of constipation drugs may increase your dementia risk

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Laxatives are medications frequently used to treat constipation.

They work by facilitating bowel movement, especially in cases where lifestyle changes such as increasing dietary fiber, hydrating adequately, and regular exercise, fail to alleviate constipation.

The Study: Regular Laxative Use and Dementia Risk

A recent study from the Chinese Academy of Sciences found that regular laxative users might have an over 50% increased risk of developing dementia compared to non-users.

The study used data from the UK Biobank database, involving 502,229 individuals without dementia at the study’s commencement.

Of this total, 18,235 participants, amounting to 3.6%, reported regular use of over-the-counter laxatives. ‘Regular use’ was defined as using a laxative on most days of the week in the month preceding the study.

Findings: Increased Dementia Risk Among Regular Laxative Users

During the ten-year average follow-up, 218 regular laxative users (1.3%) developed dementia. In contrast, among those not regularly using laxatives, 1,969 individuals (0.4%) developed dementia.

Even after adjusting for potential confounding variables like age, sex, education, co-existing illnesses and medication use, and family history of dementia, the study found a 51% increased risk of overall dementia in regular laxative users compared to non-users.

Moreover, researchers found that the risk was even higher in individuals who used only osmotic laxatives, a type of laxative that draws water into the colon to soften stools.

Implications and Future Directions

This study only establishes an association between laxative use and dementia risk and does not imply causation.

However, it posits that regular laxative use may alter the gut’s microbiome, potentially affecting nerve signaling from the gut to the brain or increasing the production of gut-based toxins that may impact the brain.

The researchers noted that constipation and laxative use are prevalent among middle-aged and older individuals, and regular use of over-the-counter laxatives was linked with a higher risk of dementia, particularly in people using multiple laxative types or osmotic laxatives.

Preventing Dementia: Lifestyle Choices

While it is impossible to entirely prevent dementia, certain lifestyle changes can significantly reduce its risk.

These include staying mentally and socially active, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy diet, managing chronic conditions, getting enough sleep, reducing stress, and avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.

All these steps collectively enhance brain health and lower dementia risk.

If you care about brain health, please read studies about how the Mediterranean diet could protect your brain health, and carotenoid supplements could improve memory.

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about antioxidants that could help reduce dementia risk, and higher magnesium intake could help benefit brain health.

The study was conducted by Feng Sha and his team and was published in Neurology.

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