Over-the-counter medication commonly used in UK may hold dementia risk

Alzheimers Research UK explain 'what is dementia?'

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The number of dementia cases is set to triple to more than 150 million by 2050 worldwide. Worryingly, what you put into your body could make you more likely to develop the brain condition. A new study suggests that regularly taking a popular medication could hike your risk by more than 50 percent.

Whether you find comfort in a stodgy, beige diet or forget to top up your water glass as the day goes by, constipation can be stirred up by various lifestyle habits.

Furthermore, medications and rarely even medical conditions could also be to blame.

Once you find yourself unable to visit the loo for a number two, you might want to reach for a quick fix in the form of laxatives.

However, new research, published in the journal Neurology, warns against taking these popular medications.

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The study suggests that people who often use laxatives have more than 50 percent higher risk of developing dementia.

The findings also showed that people who used only osmotic laxatives, a type that attracts water to your colon, are at even greater risk.

What’s worse, the latest data suggests that there were around 13.9 million packs of laxatives sold in the UK in 2016, according to The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

Study author Doctor Feng Sha said: “Constipation and laxative use are common among middle-aged and older adults.

“However, regular laxative use may change the microbiome of the gut, possibly affecting nerve signalling from the gut to the brain or increasing the production of intestinal toxins that may affect the brain.”

The study looked at over 502,000 people in the UK biobank database with an average age of 57 who didn’t have dementia when the research started.

From the study cohort, around 18,235 people reported regularly using over-the-counter laxatives.

Regular use was defined as taking a laxative most days of the week during the month preceding the study.

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After a 10-year follow-up, the researchers found that 218 of those who regularly used the medications developed dementia. 

Out of those who didn’t regularly use laxatives, around 1,969 people got the mind-robbing condition.

After adjusting the data for factors including age, sex, other illnesses and more, the research team found that regular laxative users had a 51 percent increased risk of overall dementia, compared to people who didn’t regularly take them.

Worryingly, this risk also increased with the number of laxative types used.

For people using one type of the medication, there was a 28 percent increased risk, compared to a 90 percent higher risk in people who took two or more types.

However, only people taking osmotic laxatives had a heightened risk among those using only one type.

Dr Sha added: “More research is needed to further investigate the link our research found between laxatives and dementia.

“If our findings are confirmed, medical professionals could encourage people to treat constipation by making lifestyle changes such as drinking more water, increasing dietary fibre and adding more activity into their daily lives.”

Furthermore, the research team stressed their study does not prove that laxatives cause dementia but it merely shows an association.

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