A German study published in the medical journal JAMA Neurology found that seniors who regularly took proton-pump inhibitors like Nexium, Prilosec, and Prevacid were 44% more likely to end up with dementia. Proton-pump inhibitors, commonly used to decrease acid in the stomach, are used by more than 15 million people, according to NPR.
My quote is from Fortune.com’s report, but this same story is being passed along by all of the major news outlets. Here is the headline in Fortune “Some Popular Heartburn Drugs Have Been Linked to Dementia.” Other headlines are featuring the same potential connection.
A German research team has analyzed the health outcomes of 74000 patients who were first noticed to not have demential. The average age was 74, and after seven years had passed the same patients were checked to see how many now had been diagnosed with dementia, and of those, how many were also taking heartburn medication, specifically PPI (Proton Pump Inhibitors.) Nexium is only one brand of PPI and was not singled out in the study for condemnation, despite the fact that it is in my own headline. Here are the drugs generic names that were looked at in this study, which are now ‘linked’ to dementia…omeprazole, pantoprazole, lansoprazole, esomeprazole, or rabeprazole.
Now for a little bit of critical-thinking style analysis…
Nowhere in this news does anyone hint that any of these drugs CAUSE dementia. Nobody knows the actual cause of dementia. Dementia, in fact is a symptom of a disease, like fever, or headache. Sometimes, like pneumonia, this type of symptom is considered to be the disease and is used in shorthand form to describe the scary problem. I have also heard dementia referred to many times as “type 3 diabetes”. I have seen dementia linked recently to blood sugar problems, and to low fat diets. This is the first time I have seen it linked to heartburn.
I would, if I wanted to help the public and had my own news outlet, choose to rewrite my headlines describing this news to read “Heartburn Linked to Dementia.” In my own mind the thing that all of these heartburn drugs have in common is that people only take them when they have acid indigestion. Lots and lots of people have nightly heartburn. Somebody please study the number of patients that complain of indigestion that end up getting dementia. I don’t know how often it happens, but the chances that the artificial American diet, sugar-sweetened, fortified, lifeless and fake is the culprit in dementia.
This study has linked taking a drug to help with heartburn as pointing to a 44% greater chance to get dementia than people who were not prescribed this class of medicines. What are the chances that people who only took Tums for their heartburn also got dementia? What other differences could account for whether or not an individual gets dementia? Everyone that eats the typical American diet does not end up with Alzheimer’s. Why some do and some don’t is complex enough that there is no easy solution. Personally I blame food, specifically carbohydrates and processed food chemical additives and find them to be much more suspect than any drugs that have actually been through rigorous clinical drug trials. Nexium was tested far more rigorously for side effects than ANY food additive ever is.
I think that processed starches, artificial ingredients and sugars CAUSE heartburn, acid reflux, irritable bowel syndrome, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (fatty liver disease), and a host of other diet related maladies. I think that if you dont eat processed foods you will never get heartburn and thus be one of the lucky seniors that does not need a PPI type drug–or a high blood pressure drug–or a statin drug–or possibly any drugs at all. Let food be thy drug, and drug be thy food.