Some side effects of some treatments can go unnoticed, and this could be the case with laxatives. A recent study has established a link between the frequent use of these drugs and the appearance of dementia in advanced ages. The key could be in our microbiota.
A long-term effect. A population study carried out using data from British participants has detected a strange pattern: the link between habitual consumption of laxatives and the appearance of dementia in the elderly.
After adjusting the statistic for other known risk factors such as age, sex or other diseases, the researchers estimated a 51% increased risk of dementia among those participants who reported using laxatives regularly.
Not always the same. In their study, the research team was able to analyze some factors that modulated this relationship. Thus, for example, they found that among those who had consumed various types of laxatives the risk rose much higher than among those who had limited themselves to a single type of laxative.
They also found a relative increase in cases among those who had used osmotic laxatives. Osmotic laxatives are medications that work by causing water to accumulate in the colon to soften the stool. It is a type of treatment that is not recommended to use on a regular basis, a recommendation that is not always followed.
“Our research found that the regular use of over-the-counter laxatives was associated with an increased risk of dementia, especially in those people who use multiple types of laxatives or osmotic laxatives,” Feng Sha, one of the authors, summarized in a press release. of the study.
Data from half a million people. The study was conducted using data from 502,229 participants in a British biobank data. Of these, 3.6%, or 18,235 people, declared having used over-the-counter laxatives on a regular basis, understanding as such the use of these most days in the weeks of the month prior to the questionnaire.
The researchers studied the appearance or not of dementia after a period of 10 years after this analysis of laxative use. Details of the study have been published in the journal Neurology, published by the American Academy of Neurology.
Correlation yes, but what is the cause? The authors agree that the study shows a relationship between regular laxative use and the development of dementia in later life, but they are not sure how the causal interconnections behind this correlation work. In any case, what can be discussed based on the study is laxatives as a risk factor in the onset of dementia.
The authors of the article point out that the intestinal microbiota may have a lot to do with this relationship. It is increasingly clear to scientists that the microbiota of our digestive system affects our health much further. And dementia is one of these diseases whose appearance has been linked to the microbiota.
“Regular laxative use can change the gastrointestinal microbiome, possibly affecting nerve signaling from the gut to the brain or increasing the production of intestinal toxins that can affect the brain,” Sha noted.
A step in prevention. The study could help improve our ability to prevent degenerative diseases, diseases that have increased considerably in our societies, especially due to the increase in life expectancy. Without, in addition, diseases that are very difficult to treat.
Despite this, the recommendation not to abuse laxative medications (or any medication, for that matter) is not new. The fact that a treatment is available over the counter does not imply that we have to forget this precaution.
In the case of laxatives, there are different recommendations to follow before resorting to their consumption, such as increasing our intake of foods rich in fiber such as fresh fruits and vegetables, drinking plenty of fluids and maintaining an active life.
Image | Miriam Alonso
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