A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has found that chronic constipation is associated with an increased risk of cognitive decline. The study, which analyzed data from over 110,000 adults, found that individuals who had bowel movements every three days or more had worse cognitive function compared to those who had daily bowel movements. This decline in cognitive function was equivalent to three additional years of cognitive aging.
Furthermore, the study found that chronic constipation was associated with a 73% increased risk of cognitive decline, while having more than one bowel movement a day was associated with a 37% increased risk. Genetic analysis of stool samples collected from participants revealed that those with worse cognition and chronic constipation had fewer gut bacteria for digesting dietary fiber and more gut bacteria known to cause inflammation.
While these findings suggest a link between gut health and brain health, the study was not designed to test the causal relationships between bowel movements, the gut microbiome, and cognition. However, these findings add to the growing body of evidence suggesting that gut health plays a role in dementia and related illnesses, such as Alzheimer's disease.
The researchers believe that the differences in gut bacteria may explain why chronic constipation is linked to declining brain health. Persistent inflammation, which can be caused by certain gut bacteria, is known to damage neurons in individuals with Alzheimer's disease.
Heather Snyder, a spokesperson for the Alzheimer's Association, emphasized the interconnectedness of our body systems and the potential impact that taking care of our gut health could have on reducing the risk of dementia. However, more research is needed to fully understand the causal relationship between bowel movements, gut health, and cognitive decline.
Overall, this study highlights the importance of maintaining a healthy gut and suggests that it may be a pathway to reducing the risk of dementia. However, further research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms behind these associations.