Popular Heartburn Drugs Linked to Dementia Risk

woman holding heartburn medicationPopular heartburn drugs, such as Prilosec and Nexium, were recently linked to an increased risk of dementia in a study published in JAMA Neurology. Heartburn drugs are known as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) because they reduce acid production by blocking the enzyme in the stomach that produces it. PPIs have long been linked to kidney problems, bone fractures and more, and now research has uncovered that PPI drugs are associated with cognitive decline as well.

A group of German researchers studied the use of PPIs in 73,679 men and women aged 75 and older using data from 2004 to 2011. At the beginning of the study, all participants were free of dementia. Of the total participants, 2,950 took PPIs to treat heartburn, reflux or ulcers.

At the end of the study, 29,510 participants had developed dementia. The research team found that participants receiving regular PPI medication were 44 percent more likely to have developed dementia compared with patients not using any PPIs. Regular use of PPIs increased the risk for dementia in men by 52 percent and in women by 42 percent compared to the group that did not use PPIs.

Three PPIs were most often used by participants: Prilosec (omeprazole), Protonix (pantaprazole) and Nexium (esomeprazole). Of these three, the highest risk for dementia was associated with Nexium.

This study simply proves a link between PPIs and an increased risk of dementia, but it does not prove that the heartburn medication directly caused the dementia. As with all medications and medical decisions, consult your primary physician. For non-pharmacological ideas to boost your brain health, visit our blog “2016 Brain Health Resolutions”.