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Drinking alcohol a dementia risk

23 July 2012

Drinking alcohol a dementia risk

Results show the idea that some alcohol being good for ageing brains may not be true and may in fact be detrimental to brain function in later life. People who stick to the recommended allowances may be at risk, as well as heavy drinkers.
The American study monitored the health of 1,300 women in their mid-60’s for a 20 year period. The results showed that the risks, from mild cognitive impairment to dementia, were higher in those who drank more alcohol. It also seems that women who started drinking after a life of sobriety also had a higher risk of developing problems later in life. Those who drank in ‘moderation’ were likely to develop problems with memory and brain function, which can be early warning signs of dementia. It is worth noting, however, that the alcohol measures in the US are larger than those in the UK but the results are still very important and do show the links between alcohol and brain function.

Another related study, carried out on 5,075 men and women, showed that participants who reported heavy periods of drinking were more likely to experience problems similar to dementia. It was also evident that binging fortnightly resulted in double the risk of developing problems.

It has been suggested that these conclusions have been drawn because people in their 60’s could be more susceptible to alcohol or that the reasons behind drinking, for example a death or family problems, could be the real cause. Further research is needed into this idea so that we are able to draw more accurate conclusions and take the appropriate action.

Dr Marie Janson, of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said, “In a country with major concerns over binge drinking, these new findings should be taken seriously by people of all ages. There is mounting evidence linking alcohol consumption to cognitive decline, but this research delves deeper by examining the effects of different drinking patterns in more detail. These researchers found
that in older people, even moderate drinking may have a harmful effect, in contrast to some previous research suggesting that moderate drinking may bring benefits. Such differing findings underline the need for more in-depth studies to tease out how different drinking patterns affect cognition. Many people will drink to relax and it’s important to keep an eye on the amount of
alcohol we consume.”