When eating something spicy, fried, citrus, or acidic, it’s common practice to have an antacid on hand to help alleviate symptoms of acid reflux. However, what happens when those drugs become a regular, long-term occurrence?
A new study set out to discover the link between long-term consumption of acid reflux medications – proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) – and cognitive health outcomes. Ultimately, the study showed that taking PPIs consistently for about 4.5 years was associated with a higher risk of dementia.
“Proton pump inhibitors are a useful tool to help control acid reflux, however long-term use has been linked in previous studies to a higher risk of stroke, bone fractures, and chronic kidney disease,” said Kamakshi Lakshminarayan, Ph.D., lead study researcher. “Still, some people take these drugs regularly, so we examined if they are linked to a higher risk of dementia.
“While we did not find a link with short-term use, we did find a higher risk of dementia associated with long-term use of these drugs.”
Long-term cognitive health concerns
The researchers interviewed over 5,700 people over the age of 45 for the study, asking them questions about what medications they take, and how long they’ve been taking each one, and monitored them over the course of 5.5 years. None of the participants had any cognitive issues when the study began.
Based on their responses, the researchers put the participants into groups depending on their experience with PPIs: those who had no history of taking the drugs, those who took the drugs for up to 2.8 years, those who took the drugs between 2.8 and 4.4 years, and those who took the drugs for over 4.4 years.
Participants in the final group – those who took PPIs for over 4.4 years – were linked with the highest risk of developing dementia. The risk for future cognitive issues was at 33% for participants taking acid reflux medication long-term.
Those in the other groups showed no association with cognitive concerns over the course of the study.
No direct cause found
The researchers explained that their findings showed only an association between acid reflux medication and dementia – not a direct cause between the two – and more work is needed in this area to better understand the health risks.
“More research is needed to confirm our findings and explore reasons for the possible link between long-term proton pump inhibitor use and a higher risk of dementia,” said Lakshminarayan. “While there are various ways to treat acid reflux, such as taking antacids, maintaining a healthy weight, and avoiding late meals and certain foods, different approaches may not work for everyone.
“It is important that people taking these medications speak with their doctor before making any changes, to discuss the best treatment for them, and because stopping these drugs abruptly may result in worse symptoms.”