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Popular Heartburn Medication can Increase Dementia Risk, Study Says

Update Date: Feb 16, 2016 09:39 AM EST
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A group of popular heartburn medications has been linked to an increased risk of dementia, a new study reported.

For this study, researchers from Germany examined the effects of taking proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) on the mental health of seniors aged 75 and older. PPIs, which include Prilosec, Nexium and Prevacid, work by reducing the levels of acid that get produced by the stomach.

They analyzed the data on nearly 74,000 older participants who were a part of a German health insurance company. The information was gathered between 2004 and 2011. Roughly 2,950 participants used PPIs on a regular basis, which was defined as at least once over the span of three months.

The team found that seniors who took PPIs regularly were 44 percent more likely to develop dementia in comparison to seniors who did not take the medications at all. The researchers noted that they did not find a cause-and-effect relationship and that a long-tern study should be conducted to further analyze the risks involved with PPIs.

"To evaluate cause-and-effect relationships between long-term PPI use and possible effects on cognition in the elderly, randomized, prospective clinical trials are needed," said corresponding author Britta Haenisch, from the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, reported by CBS News. "Clinicians should follow guidelines for PPI prescription, to avoid overprescribing PPIs and inappropriate use."

Dr. Helen Webberley, a dedicated general practitioner for Oxford Online Pharmacy, commented, reported by the Huffington Post UK, "We have known for some time that proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) may have long term health effects, but there is not a well-described causal link with dementia. This information is a surprise finding from looking at a lot of data and as such cannot be used to establish a definite cause and effect. It does, however, highlight that we are sometimes too willing to pop pills to cure our ills."

Dr. Webberley was not involved with the research.

The study's findings were published in the journal, JAMA Neurology.

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