According to new research, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, people who take proton pump inhibitors for four and a half years or longer may have a higher risk of dementia compared to people who do not take these medications. This study simply demonstrates a correlation; it does not establish that acid reflux medications cause dementia.
When stomach acid enters the oesophagus, it typically occurs after eating or while lying down. Heartburn and ulcers can be experienced by those who have acid reflux. People who have recurrent acid reflux may develop GERD, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease, which can result in esophageal cancer.
“Proton pump inhibitors help control acid reflux, but long-term use is linked to increased stroke, bone fractures, and kidney disease risk,”
Reported Kamakshi Lakshminarayan, PhD, from the University of Minnesota. Investigating further, the study explored potential dementia risk. Short-term use showed no link, but long-term usage was associated with higher dementia risk.
The study looked at 5,712 people aged 45 and above, without dementia at the beginning, with an average age of 75.
To find out if they used acid reflux medication, the researchers checked their medicines during visits and phone calls. Among them, 1,490 (about 26%) had used these drugs. The participants were split into four groups based on whether they used the drugs and for how long: those who didn’t use them, those who used them for up to 2.8 years, those who used them for 2.8 to 4.4 years, and those who used them for over 4.4 years.
Afterwards, the participants were observed for about 5.5 years on average. During this time, 585 individuals (around 10%) developed dementia.
Out of the 4,222 people who didn’t use the drugs, 415 individuals developed dementia. This translates to 19 cases per 1,000 person-years. Person-years represent both the number of individuals in the study and the time each person spends in the study.
Among the 497 people who took the drugs for over 4.4 years, 58 individuals developed dementia. This corresponds to 24 cases per 1,000 person-years.
After considering things like age, gender, and health conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes, the scientists discovered that individuals who had used acid reflux medication for more than 4.4 years faced a 33% greater chance of developing dementia compared to those who had never used these medications.
Dementia Risk Found
However, there wasn’t an increased dementia risk found for individuals who took the drugs for less than 4.4 years.
“We need more research to be sure about what we found and to understand why using proton pump inhibitors for a long time might be connected to a higher chance of dementia,” explained Lakshminarayan. “Even though there are different ways to manage acid reflux, like using antacids, keeping a healthy weight, and avoiding late meals and certain foods, not all methods suit everyone. It’s important for people taking these drugs to talk to their doctor before making any changes. Stopping these medications suddenly could lead to worse symptoms.”
One limitation of the study was that participants were asked once a year about their medication use, so researchers had to estimate usage between these yearly check-ins. If participants started and stopped using acid reflux drugs between check-ins, the estimates of their usage might not be accurate. The researchers also couldn’t tell if participants used over-the-counter acid reflux drugs.
The study received support from the National Institutes of Health, including the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.