Older adults who regularly use laxatives have a 51% higher risk of developing dementia compared to those who don’t use them, suggests a new study published in the journal Neurology.
However, there are caveats to the study.
The study, entitled “Association Between Regular Laxative Use and Incident Dementia in UK Biobank Participants”, was conducted at the UK Biobank.
It is a “large-scale biomedical database and research resource containing in-depth genetic and health information from half a million UK participants,” the study said.
TOILET TIME: DOES YOUR MOBILE DEVICE AFFECT HOW LONG YOU ARE IN THE BATHROOM? EXPERTS REVEAL HEALTH RISKS
Researchers from the University of Cambridge, Harvard Medical School and other universities looked at 502,229 participants between the ages of 40 and 69 (with a mean age of 56.5) who had no history of dementia.
Of those who said they used laxatives “most days of the week” in the past four weeks, 1.3% had developed all-cause or vascular dementia after a 9.8-year period.
Only 0.4% of those who did not use laxatives had the same result.
Vascular dementia is a condition that causes “problems with reasoning, planning, judgment, memory, and other thought processes caused by brain damage from decreased blood flow to your brain,” as defined by the Mayo Clinic.
WHAT IS FRONTOTEMPORAL DEMENTIA, THE DIAGNOSIS BRUCE WILLIS RECEIVED?
The study found no association between laxative use and high blood pressure development of Alzheimer’s diseaseaccording to the World Health Organization, 60%-70% of all cases of dementia.
Two of the most common types of over-the-counter laxatives are osmotics and stimulants. Osmotic laxatives work by drawing in water to hydrate and soften the stool, while stimulant laxatives cause the intestinal muscles to contract.
The study found that osmotic laxatives had the strongest association with dementia risk, with a 64% increase.
“Constipation and use of laxatives is common in middle-aged and older adults,” said study author Feng Sha, PhD, of the Shenzhen Institute of Advanced Technology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, in a press release from the American Academy of Neurology.
“However, regular use of laxatives can alter the gut microbiome, potentially affecting nerve signaling from the gut to the brain or increasing the production of gut toxins that can affect the brain.”
She continued, “Our research found that regular use of over-the-counter laxatives was associated with a higher risk of dementia, especially in people who used multiple types of laxatives or osmotic laxatives.”
IRRITABLE BUT SYNDROME MAY NOT ALL BE IN YOUR HEAD
Those who used multiple types of laxatives were found to have an even higher risk of dementia, with a 90% increase.
Researchers have adjusted the results to account for this lifestyle factorspre-existing medical conditions, medications, family history, and other socio-demographic characteristics.
Dr. Laura Purdy, MD, a board-certified family physician in Nashville, Tennessee, said the study is very high-level and only broadly looks at the link between dementia and laxative use. She was not involved in the investigation.
“Much more information is needed, such as which laxatives may contribute and how much use is risky.”
“It shows that there is an increased risk of all-cause dementia, which means that any type of dementia appears to have increased in this patient population,” she told Fox News Digital in an email.
“Much more information is needed, such as which laxatives may contribute, how much use is risky, and what clinical recommendations should or should not be made regarding laxative use.”
STRESS MAY BE THE DEATH BEHIND CROHN’S DISEASE, RESEARCH WOULD FIND
The researchers based their hypothesis on the “microbiome-gut-brain axis,” which connects the body’s gut functions to the brain’s cognitive centers.
Dr. Marc Siegel, a professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City and a Fox News medical associate, believes the link between laxatives and all-cause dementia makes sense.
“There are electrolyte disturbances with chronic laxative use,” he told Fox News Digital in an email.
“Laxatives can also draw chemicals from the gut (microbiome) that also act as neurotransmitters in the brain. There’s a strong gut/brain connection that you don’t want to disrupt.”
CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP FOR OUR HEALTH NEWSLETTER
According to the Johns Hopkins Medicine website, about four million people in the US suffer from constipation. The condition leads to 2.5 million doctor visits per year.
About one-third of older adults experience constipation at least occasionally, the National Institute on Aging states on its website.
CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP
“More research is needed to further explore the link our study found between laxatives and dementia,” said Dr. Sha in the press release.
“If our findings are confirmed, medical professionals could encourage people to treat constipation by making lifestyle changes such as drinking more water, eating more dietary fiber and adding more activity to their daily lives.”