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Common Heart Burn Medicines Linked with Dementia in Older Adults

Dementia is a progressive brain disease that can be caused due to a number of factors. It is a non-curable group of disease and many elements can be a trigger factor for it. Mostly seen in the elderly, this disease can lead to memory loss and permanent brain damage.

A team of researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden who conducted a study on heartburn medicine has warned that prolonged use of Nexium, a popular name for the drug omeprazole can have a negative impact on the central nervous system.

The Journal of Alzheimer’s and Dementia published the findings of this study.

According to the study, the formation of acetylcholine, which functions as a neurotransmitter in the body is inhibited by proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) used in the treatment of heartburn.

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A researcher from the Department of Neurobiology at the Karolinska Institute said that Alzheimer’s and dementia cannot be treated, the best thing to do is to prevent these diseases.

Acid is transported from the mucus-forming cells by pumps. These pumps are made nonfunctional by PPI drugs which include heartburn medicines like Zantac and Nexium that result in tissue damage due to the reduction of acid.

The studies conducted previously highlighted the link between PPI drugs and dementia but the reason was unclear. In this recent research, six variations of PPI drugs were analyzed using 3D computer simulations.

Neurotransmitters conduct signals among nerve cells only when the adequate amount of enzyme to metabolize it is produced in the body. The outcome of this research showed that the PPI drugs were involved in decreasing the amount of enzyme by binding to it due to which it was not effective.

Some heartburn drugs showed higher affinity to the enzyme which include Nexium, Prilosec, and Losec containing the active ingredient omeprazole and Pariet which has the active ingredient rabeprazole. Some drugs showed lower affinity including Protonix and Prevacid which contain the active ingredients pantoprazole and lansoprazole respectively.

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Taher Darreh-Shori said that more clinical trials need to be done but meanwhile excessive use of heartburn drugs should be prohibited especially among older people and dementia patients.

Acetylcholine is an important motor neurotransmitter of the body and essential for normal brain function. People with other neurodegenerative diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in which muscle weakness is a huge factor should avoid taking such drugs as PPIs can be a trigger for such patients.

Doctors should prescribe mild drugs to such patients and that too for a short period of time to escape any negative impact.

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However, Darreh-Shori mentioned that the nervous system has a high tolerance for drugs if they are administered moderately over a short time span. He also said that the drugs are safe to use for the elderly as long as they are used in a small amount for some time.

This research concludes that heartburn drugs pose a risk for millions of elderly to develop dementia but safe use of this medicine does not have a negative effect on the brain.

About the author

Areeba Hussain

Graduated in Medical Microbiology, Areeba is working as a full-time medical writer for the last few years. She enjoys summarizing the latest researches into readable news to convey the recent advancements in medicine and human health.

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