Common heartburn drug linked to a higher risk of dementia

Proton pump inhibitors, commonly used to treat heartburn, are associated with an increased risk of dementia, according to research by the German Centre for Neurodegenerative Diseases.

The drugs are widely available both on prescription and over the counter and marketed in Britain under the brand name Nexium.

The researchers looked at the use of proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) in 73,500 subjects over the age of 75 who were free of dementia at the beginning of the study. Over the following five years, about 29,000 developed Alzheimer’s disease or other kinds of dementia.

The research, which has been published in the journal JAMA Neurology, found that after controlling external factors (such as age, sex and other health conditions and medicine use) regular use of PPIs increased the risk of dementia in men by 52 per cent, and by 42 per cent in women.

Our expert verdict
This is an interesting study and it establishes a definite need for further research on this topic, particularly looking into duration of treatment. The study size is impressive, although only 2,950 of the 73,679 participants were on PPIs. The researchers say that outcomes were adjusted to account for confounding factors.
Research score: 4/5

The study’s senior author, Britta Haenisch, said: ‘Our study does not prove that PPIs cause dementia. It can only provide a statistical association. This is just a small part of the puzzle.

‘Clinicians, pharmacists and patients have to weigh the benefits against the potential side effects, and future studies will help to better inform these decisions.’

  • Ross

    Obvious to me. It is simply an association. Those on a high carbohydrate suffer frequently from acid reflux and are prescribed PPI’s. Those on a high carb diet are at a high risk of dementia (from the high insulin levels.)

    Shortly after I went onto a lower carb diet my reflux vanished. I stopped PPI’s a long time ago after suffering the mind depleting effect that many complain of. How do you convince your Doctor that your mind is only at 85% of its normal efficiency,
    (I am reasonably insulin sensitive, and still eat some oats, fruit and higher carb vegetables such as pumpkin and carrot.) – My wife has MS and is slowly improving on her ketogenic diet. We have both lost well over 20 kgs each.

    Disclosure: I used to be a pharmaceutical representative, and also worked for many years in dispensary IT and drug interactions. I have an organic chemistry degree and have done much reading in biochemistry.

    I haven’t posted any links – you can all use Google! 🙂

    • OvN

      A low GI diet has the additional benefit of reducing the energy peaks and troughs that many folks suffer. So one has to wonder if doctors who prescribe PPI even consider advising their patients to alter their diet as a first step to try to ascertain the cause of the heartburn.