Moderate drinkers less likely to develop dementia - research

13 July, 2009

Moderate drinkers are less likely to develop dementia, according to US research.

Scientists from North Carolina’s Wake Forest University found that moderate drinkers – those who consume between 8 and 14 drinks per week – are at a 37% lower risk of dementia. However, heavy drinkers are at twice the normal risk of developing dementia.

The findings were presented at the International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease (ICAD) in Vienna; the world’s largest ever gathering of dementia researchers.

Rebecca Wood, chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Research Trust, said: “Although moderate alcohol intake does appear to reduce dementia risk, exceeding one to two drinks per day on a regular basis – becoming a heavy drinker – may double risk of developing dementia

Dr Kaycee Sink of North Carolina’s Wake Forest University and colleagues investigated the link between alcohol intake and dementia among 3,069 people aged 75 or older. At the beginning of the six-year study 2,587 participants were cognitively normal, and 482 had Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI). Afterwards, there were 523 new dementia cases.

After adjustments for factors including demographics, smoking, depression and social activity, moderate alcohol intake (one to two drinks per day) was associated with a 37% lower risk of dementia among those who were cognitively normal at the start of the study, but not in those with MCI.

Among those who already had MCI, any alcohol intake was associated with faster cognitive decline, while heavy drinkers – those consuming more than 14 drinks per week – were almost twice as likely to develop dementia.

Alcohol consumption was self-reported by study participants and categorised as: none, 1-7 drinks/week (light); 8-14 drinks/week (moderate); and more than 14 drinks/week (heavy). All types of alcohol were counted. The distribution of alcohol consumption per week was 0=42.6%; 1-7=38.2%; 8-14=9.4%; more than 14= 9.8%.

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