Moderate drinkers less likely to get dementia than teetotallers

Research suggest abstinence in middle age can increase the risk of dementia

Research suggest abstinence in middle age can increase the risk of dementia

The study did not take into account the subjects' drinking habits before middle age. "We show that both long-term alcohol abstinence and excessive alcohol consumption may increase the risk of dementia".

An expert from the Royal College of Psychiatrists warned the study's results should be interpreted with a "high degree of caution".

Scientists examined data on more than 9,000 people, who were aged between 35 and 55 when the study began in the mid-1980s.

Participants were assessed at regular intervals between 1985 and 1993 on their alcohol consumption and alcohol dependence.

The subjects were then monitored for a further 23 years after which almost 400 cases of dementia were identified.

At the end of the study, after a mean follow-up period of 23 years, there were 397 cases of dementia.

Those who abstained were found to have a 45% higher risk of dementia compared with people who consumed between one and 14 units of alcohol per week. Alcohol consumption trajectories between 1985 and 2004 were also used to examine the association of long-term alcohol consumption and risk of dementia from midlife to early old age.

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The team of French and British researchers suggested that part of the excess risk of dementia in abstainers could be attributable to the greater risk of cardiometabolic disease reported in this group.

But for the poor civil servants chugging more sauce, going beyond another 7 units more per week increased the chance of dementia by 17 per cent. Surprise, surprise this group was more likely to be beer drinkers.

The UK chief medical officer's guidance states that men and women should drink no more than 14 units of alcohol each week.

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".

At the same time, the study cautioned, the findings "should not motivate people who do not drink to start drinking given the known detrimental effects of alcohol consumption for mortality, neuropsychiatric disorders, cirrhosis of the liver and cancer".

Chronic heavy drinking has been clearly established as a major risk factor for all types of dementia, especially the early onset of the disease. The present study encourages the use of a lower threshold of alcohol consumption in such guidelines, applicable over the adult life course, in order to promote cognitive health.

Previous studies indicate that moderate drinking is associated with a reduced risk of dementia, whereas both abstinence and heavy drinking are associated with a risk of dementia.

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