A new study published in the magazine Neurology has found a possible association between the regular use of non-prescription laxatives and an increased risk of developing dementia. The work was carried out by Dr. Fen Sha of the Shenzhen Institute of Advanced Technology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Guangdong, China.
The research was based on data from the UK biobank and extracted information from 502,229 people with a mean age of 57 years and who did not have dementia at the start of the study. Of this group, 3.6% reported using over-the-counter laxatives regularly.
Although the study did not find a possible cause for the association between laxative use and dementia, Sha explained that this drug could change the gut microbiomeaffecting nerve signaling to the brain or increasing the production of intestinal toxins that could affect the brain.
The work also found that individuals who used the drug regularly had a 51% higher risk of general dementia than people who did not take it frequently. In addition, the risk among people taking a single type of laxative was found to be increased by 28%, while the risk increased up to 90% in those who consumed two or more types of laxatives.
The investigation also identified that the osmotic laxatives, such as polyethylene glycol, milk of magnesia, and lactulose, posed the highest risk of dementia. Among people taking just one type, those taking osmotics were 64% more likely to develop dementia than those not using laxatives.
The study was unable to determine the relationship between different doses of laxatives and dementia, as the authors did not have information on the daily doses consumed by the participants. However, Sha recommended reducing the risk of dementia by identifying modifiable risk factorsAs the lifestyle change, adequate water intake and increased dietary fiber to treat constipation.
The doctor also noted that the study did not prove that laxatives cause dementia, but stressed the need for further research to further delve into the link revealed in their analysis. “Finding ways to reduce a person’s risk of dementia by identifying modifiable risk factors is crucial,” Sha said. “If our findings are confirmed, clinicians could encourage people to treat constipation by changing their lifestyle, including more water and increasing dietary fiber.”