Research presented by University of Massachusetts Amherst nutritional epidemiologist Chaoran Ma claims that how frequently a person poops can affect their cognition.
Ma and fellow researchers gathered information from 112,753 participants. They studied the frequency of bowel movements in 2012 and 2013. Then, they looked at their cognitive function from 2014 through 2017. Researchers said 12,696 participants completed the study.
"Compared to those with bowel movements once daily, constipated participants (bowel movements every three-plus days) had significantly worse cognition, equivalent to 3.0 years more of cognitive aging," Ma said in a press release. "We also found a slightly increased risk of cognitive decline in those who had bowel movements more than twice a day."
Bowel movement frequency and subjective cognition were both linked to the overall variation of the gut microbiome and specific microbial species, researchers said. Simply put, eating fibrous foods that improve bowel movements can also play a role in cognition.
"This research adds further evidence for a link between the microbiome and gastrointestinal function with cognitive function," Ma says. "Our findings not only support considering constipation as a risk factor for cognitive decline but also provide further evidence for the link between microbiome and brain function."
Ma presented her findings this week at the Alzheimer’s Association’s conference.
Dong Wang, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, co-authored the study. She stressed the role diet plays in both cognition and internal function.
"These results stress the importance of clinicians discussing gut health, especially constipation, with their older patients," Wang said in a statement. "Interventions for preventing constipation and improving gut health include adopting healthy diets enriched with high-fiber and high-polyphenol foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains; taking fiber supplementation; drinking plenty of water every day; and having regular physical activity."
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