Heavy drinking, long-term abstinence could both contribute to dementia risk

Modesto Morganelli
Agosto 4, 2018

The risk of development of dementia was observed in those who drank more than 14 units of alcohol per week by 17% and increased with each of the seven units of alcohol. This being said, earlier consumption may contribute to higher dementia risk, as the illness "involves neuropathological changes over many years, perhaps decades". They were followed up for an average of 23 years, with cases of dementia identified through hospital, mental health services, and mortality records.

Long-term abstainers and those who reported a decrease in alcohol consumption also appeared to have an increased risk.

Researchers from French national institute of health and medical research (INSERM) and UCL investigated the association between midlife alcohol consumption and risk of dementia into early old age.

Scientists have shown that complete abstinence from alcohol can be as harmful as its excessive use. The chances of losing your marbles are higher for those that didn't drink a drop of alcohol compared to people who consume about 1-14 units of booze per week. "Future research will need to examine drinking habits across a whole lifetime, and this will help to shed more light on the relationship between alcohol and dementia".

"Overall, no evidence was found that alcohol consumption between one unit per week and 14 units per week increases the risk of dementia".

The 14-drink-per-week maximum - similar to guidelines in other countries - is the equivalent of six medium (175-millilitre) glasses of wine at 13 per cent alcohol, six pints of four per cent beer, or 14 25-ml shots of 40-degree spirits.

Dr. Sara Imarisio, from Alzheimer's Research UK, said: "A healthy lifestyle, including cutting down on too much alcohol, can improve health and reduce dementia risk".

The long-term study - which tracked the health of civil servants working in London - found that both groups of people who drank over the recommended limits and also those who have abstained from alcohol entirely were at an increased risk of contracting the disease.

However, the researchers said that this is an observational study, so no firm conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect, and they cannot rule out the possibility that some of the risk may be due to unmeasured factors.

'The study tells us little about how drinking above low risk guidance beyond the of age of 55 affects the development of dementia.

"This study is important since it fills gaps in knowledge, but we should remain cautious and not change current recommendations on alcohol use based exclusively on epidemiological studies", according to the paper.

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