People who regularly take laxatives may be at greater risk of developing dementia. The new study also found that people who used multiple laxatives had an even higher risk.
New research suggests that people who regularly use laxatives may be more than 50% more likely to develop dementia than those who do not use constipation medications. The study also found that people who used several different types of laxatives or only osmotic laxatives (a type of laxative that prevents water from being absorbed into the colon) were at even greater risk .
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The results do not prove that laxatives cause dementia, but suggest a link, the researchers say. “Our study showed that regular use of over-the-counter laxatives was associated with a higher risk of developing dementia, especially in people who used multiple types of laxatives or osmotic laxatives,” said Feng Sha, author of the Chinese Academy of Sciences study.
However, the scientists say that if their findings are confirmed by further research, doctors could encourage people to treat constipation by making lifestyle changes, such as drinking more water, eating more fiber, and adding more activity to their daily lives.
Feng Sha said: “Constipation and the use of laxatives are common among middle-aged and older people. However, regular use of a laxative can alter the gut microbiome, possibly affecting the transmission of nerve signals from the gut to the brain or increasing the production of intestinal toxins that can affect the brain.”
“Our study found that regular use of over-the-counter laxatives was associated with a higher risk of developing dementia, especially in people who used multiple types of laxatives or osmotic laxatives.”
The researchers also found that while osmotic and stimulant laxatives are not recommended for regular use, there were many regular users of these medications in this study.
The study involved 502,229 people from the British Biobank – a database of genetic and medical information from 500,000 participants across the country – with an average age of 57 who did not have dementia at the start of the study
Of this group, 18,235 people, or 3.6%, reported using over-the-counter laxatives most days of the week in the month prior to the study—this was considered regular use.