What’s the connection between drinking alcohol and dementia risk? That’s a very important question. Could either increasing or decreasing drinking reduce it? Dementia is a serious burden on loved ones. It’s also a serious burden on the economy. And in recent decades the global prevalence of dementia has nearly tripled.
Alcohol and Dementia Risk
Researchers wanted to explore any link between alcohol and dementia. To do so, they analyzed data from 15 prospective cohort studies. These were done in countries on six continents.They included 24,478 people aged over 60. At baseline, the mean age was 71.8. They had no dementia at the start of each study.
These studies avoided problems in some other research. Researchers were able to compare drinkers with life-long abstainers. Thus, they could avoid the problem of “sick quitters.” The studies also included low and middle income as well as high income countries. They included different racial groupings and ethnicities. And all the studies measured alcohol drinking in the same way.
Analysts controlled for possible confounders. These included education, BMI, depression, stroke, and diabetes. Also heart attack, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
This research found that abstinence from alcohol is linked to an increased risk for dementia. They found up to about three drinks per day is linked to a decreased risk of dementia.
Most people greatly under-report their drinking. Thus, the amount linked to reduced dementia risk is almost certainly higher than three glasses.
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- Rehm, J. et al. Alcohol use and dementia. Alz Res Ther, 11(1).
- Sabia, S. et al. Alcohol consumption and risk of dementia. 23 year follow-up. BMJ, 362, k2927.
- Visontay, R. et al. Alcohol use and dementia. Curr Opin Psych, 34, 165-70.
- Mewton, L. et al. The relationship between alcohol use and dementia in adults aged more than 60 years. Addict.
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