After a new study, researchers assert that regular use of laxatives has the potential to increase a person’s risk of dementia by more than 50%.
However, experts advise that the research is still in its early stages.
Researchers involved in the study from medical institutions in China as well as the University of Cambridge and Harvard Medical School claim that constipation afflicts around 20% of the general population, jumping to around 70% of those in nursing homes.
The majority of sufferers treat their constipation symptoms with one of two versions of laxatives.
The study which was published in the American Academy of Neurology’s medical journal; entitled: Neurology attests that a potential dementia link is more dominant with the use of osmotic laxatives. These are designed to draw water into the stook and make it easier to pass.
The other kind which is a stimulant laxative increases muscle contractions along the stool mass.
The study found that regular users of laxatives were more likely to be female, have less education, suffer from a chronic illness and regularly take opioid or anticholinergic drugs.
“The prevalence of stroke, high blood pressure, depression, poor overall self-health rating and the uptake of calcium channel blockers, statins and steroid drugs were higher in regular than non-regular users,” the study asserted.
The researchers also concluded that 2,187 participants in the study which totalled 476,219 adults aged between 40 and 69 in the UK had a diagnosis of dementia, which included Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia by the conclusion of the study.
The study took into account around 10 years of self-reported data. At the onset of the study, researchers identified the participant’s health status as well as their lifestyle factors including their exposure to over-the-counter laxatives. Approximately 3.6% reported using laxatives most days of the week.
“Regular use of laxatives was associated with a higher risk of all-cause dementia, particularly in those who used multiple laxative types or osmotic laxatives,” claimed the study.
Dementia was diagnosed in 1.3% of participants who regularly consumed laxatives in comparison to o.4% who didn’t use laxatives on a regular basis.
The most significant risk occurred in those ingesting osmotic laxatives.
People who used one kind of laxative had a 28% increase in the risk of developing dementia while those who used two or more types of laxatives increased their risk to 90%.
“Regular laxative use may change the gut microbiome, possibly affecting nerve signalling from the gut to the brain or increasing the production of intestinal toxins that may affect the brain,” said Feng Sha, PhD, a study author from the Shenzen Institute of Advanced Technology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Guangdong, China.
“It’s never a good idea to use laxatives on a regular, long-term basis,” states Ann Danahy a dietician.
“They can worsen constipation problems and you can become dependent on them. Long-term laxative use can also damage your large intestine.”