The study was adjusted for factors that may influence the outcome of the analysis, such as age, diseases, family history of dementia, etc. The analysis showed that, over a period of around 10 years, 1.3% of participants who regularly used laxatives had been diagnosed with dementia, compared to 0.4% who did not regularly use laxatives. Overall, people who regularly used laxatives were 51% more likely to develop dementia than their counterparts.
The type of laxative affected the outcome: People who regularly used osmotic laxatives, which draw water into the colon, were 64% more likely to be diagnosed with dementia than their counterparts; they were also more likely to develop vascular dementia than those who used stimulants or mass-forming laxatives. Those who regularly used more than one type of laxative were also at higher risk: they had a 28% higher risk of developing dementia, and those who regularly used two or more had a 90% higher risk.
The researchers write that their analysis supports a hypothesis that laxative use can alter the gut microbiome, affect the signaling ability of intestinal nerves, or possibly produce toxic substances that affect the brain.
Research has not shown that laxatives cause dementia, but the association is cause for more research, the scientists write.
“Finding ways to reduce a person’s risk of dementia by identifying risk factors that can be changed is crucial,” said Feng Sha, a health statistician and associate professor at the Institute of Advanced Technology in China. Shenzhen at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Guangdong, China. co-author of the study, said in a press release. “If our results are confirmed, healthcare professionals could encourage people to treat constipation by making lifestyle changes such as drinking more water, increasing dietary fiber and adding more activity to their lives. daily.”
According to the National Institutes of Health, about 16% of American adults and one-third of adults over the age of 60 have symptoms of constipation, and up to 18% of American adults regularly use laxatives.