April 1, 2023

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Frequent use of laxatives does not increase dementia risk Health & Science

Where does this news come from?

An international group of researchers has investigated the link between laxative use and dementia (1). Frequent use of laxatives may disrupt the composition of gut bacteria. According to scientists, this can lead to dementia. They used data from a large cohort study, which is a type of observational study (UK Biobank Study):

  • Between 2006 and 2020, the researchers followed a group of 502,229 individuals.
    • They were examined at the beginning of the study How often did the participants use laxatives?.
    • During further follow-up, they recorded who advanced dementia.
  • Of all the participants, only 18,235 (3.6%) people used laxatives regularly, which is a very small minority.
  • received during the follow-up 218 (1.3%) of the participants who took laxatives developed dementia. In a much larger group of people who no laxatives Names put Only 1,969 (0.4%) of the participants had dementia.
  • Taking into account the confounding factors, increased risk of dementia by 51% in which group laxatives user.

The researchers concluded that individuals who regular laxatives use, in particular Multiple typesthat Increased risk of dementia to have.


(1) Yang Z, Wei C, Li X et al. Association between regular use of laxatives and incident dementia in UK Biobank participants. Neurology. 2023 Feb 22: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000207081.

How do you explain this news?

The researchers’ conclusion is incorrect, because you cannot establish a cause-and-effect relationship on the basis of an observational study:

  • There was definitely a link between laxatives and dementia, however Many factors can Explain this connection:
    • The small group that used a lot of laxatives averaged:
      • Older;
      • less active
      • heavier
      • Often depression
      • Diabetics more frequently.
      • smoked often.
    • These are all factors that can play a role in the development of dementia.
  • which group less dementia developed and also drank heavily More alcohol. This is amazing.
    • We took a closer look at a study that showed this Light to moderate alcohol consumption may protect against dementia (2).
  • The researchers describe how intestinal bacteria (gut flora) can play a role in dementia develops;.
    • However, other recent research contradicts this hypothesis (3).
    • There was also There are no data on dietary fiber intakewhich can affect the intestinal microbiota.
    • The study also did not examine whether the intestinal flora was changed in laxative users.
  • During a large cohort study sounded The researchers are only at the beginning of the study into laxative use.
    • So they assumed that the participants would continue to take the same amount of laxatives for the next 10 years. But this is not confirmed.
  • The fact that 1.3% of laxative users developed dementia also means that 98.7% did not develop dementia.
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An observational study found that individuals who take many (types) of laxatives are at increased risk of developing dementia. However, this is not necessarily a causal relationship. In the very small group of participants who used laxatives frequently, many other risk factors that increase the risk of dementia, such as an unhealthy lifestyle, were included. Thus, laxatives have not been shown to increase the risk of dementia.


(2) Kruger GF, Helsheim E, Pereira ACSN, ​​Camargo CQ, Rabito E. Probiotics for dementia: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Nut Rev. 2021 Jan 9; 79 (2): 160-170.