Inflammatory bowel disease dementia risk

INFLAMMATORY bowel disease is linked to an increased risk of dementia, new research suggests.

People with conditions such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease were more likely to develop dementia.

Research, published in the journal Gut, was conducted by a team in Taiwan who studied the health records of more than 1,700 people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) who were aged over 45. The study followed the volunteers for 16 years to see whether they developed dementia. Outcomes were compared against those without IBD.

Researchers found that 5.5 per cent of people with IBD went on to develop dementia. This compared to 1.4 per cent of those who did not have the bowel disease. The largest increase was seen for dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease.

Dementia was also diagnosed around seven years earlier in people with IBD than those without.

Recent research suggests the gut and the brain are linked through what is referred to as "the gut-brain axis".

Head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK Dr Rosa Sancho said: "The brain doesn’t operate in isolation from the rest of the body and inflammation plays a role in the development of the diseases, like Alzheimer’s, that can cause dementia."

She called for further research to be carried out looking at why IBD can increase the risk of dementia.

She added: "A better understanding of the dementia risk in people with inflammatory bowel disease may help improve dementia diagnoses and get treatments to people who need them at the earliest opportunity."