People who regularly take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID’s) for more than five years are significantly less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease according to a study published this month in the journal Neurology.
The study found that certain NSAID’s, in particular ibuprofen, cut the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by almost 50% however other NSAID’s including aspirin and COX-2 inhibitors such as celecoxib did not have an effect on Alzheimer’s disease.
The study, conduced by researchers in Boston, involved more than 240,000 participants and is one of the largest studies ever undertaken on the relationship between NSAID’s and Alzheimer’s disease. The participants were all aged over 55 and 49,349 of the individuals had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease while the remaining 196,850 had not.
The researchers compared NSAID use for those with Alzheimer’s disease to those free of the disease. They found that using NSAID’s for more than five years was associated with a 24% reduction in the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Ibuprofen was found to be particularly effective at reducing Alzheimer’s disease with a 44% reduction in risk observed in those using ibuprofen for more than five years.
Low-dose aspirin did not reduce Alzheimer’s risk which was quite surprising given aspirin is considered a stronger NSAID than ibuprofen however the authors indicated that the dosages of aspirin may have been too low to produce any beneficial effects on Alzheimer’s disease. Other NSAID’s that appeared to reduce Alzheimer’s disease included diclofenac, piroxicam, and inolic acid derivatives. Tylenol, which is a pain killer without anti-inflammatory properties was also found to cut the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
It is thought that NSAID’s may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease by reducing the formation of amyloid protein deposits in the brain which are a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease. A second mechanism by which NSAID’s may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease is by lowering the levels of anti-inflammatory activity in the brain. Inflammation in the brain is thought to increase in free radical production as well as inducing brain cell toxicity and death.
The theory of inflammation leading to cognitive decline and a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease is supported by studies that have found Alzheimer’s disease to be more common in people with high levels of C-reactive protein which is a marker of inflammation in the body.
The researchers warn that people need to be careful before starting a regime of NSAID’s because the side-effects of long-term use can often outweigh the benefits. NSAID’s can cause liver and kidney damage, gastric ulcers, and heart problems.
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