Moderate Alcohol Drinking Is Associated With Nearly 40% Lower Risk of Dementia

A study was conducted with 3,069 community-living adults aged 75 years and older without dementia who were enrolled in the Ginkgo Evaluation of Memory Study (GEMS), an NIH-sponsored research project. At the beginning of the study, 2,587 of the participants were assessed to be cognitively normal and 482 had mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

Participants were examined every six months for up to six years for changes in their memory or thinking abilities.

After adjustment for demographics, smoking, co-morbidities, depression, social activity, and baseline cognition, moderate alcohol intake (1-2 drinks per day) of beer, wine or distilled spirits was associated with a 37% lower risk of dementia in participants with normal cognition at the beginning of the study, but not in those who had begun with mild cognitive impairment.

Head researcher was Dr. Kaycee Sink of Wake University School of Medicine. "Our findings suggest mild to moderate alcohol intake may reduce the risk of dementia," Dr. Sink said. "However, this does not appear to be true for those who already have mild cognitive impairment."

Standard Drinks

Standard Drinks graphically illustrates information on the equivalence of standard drinks of beer, wine and distilled spirits or liquor. Its accuracy has been established by medical and other health professionals.

A standard drink is:

  • A 12-ounce bottle or can of regular beer
  • A 5-ounce glass of wine
  • A one and 1/2 ounce of 80 proof distilled spirits (either straight or in a mixed drink)

The alcohol content of a standard drink of beer, dinner wine, or distilled spirits is equivalent. To a breathalyzer, they are all the same.

The health benefits associated with drinking in moderation are also similar for beer, wine and spirits. The primary factor associated with health and longevity appears to be the alcohol itself.

Note: This website does not provide health or medical advice or opinion and none should be inferred.


  • Sink, K., et al. Moderate Alcohol Intake Is Associated With Nearly 40% Lower Risk of Dementia. Paper presented at Alzheimer's Association International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease. Vienna, Austria, July, 2009. (


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Filed Under: Health Aging