Alcohol and Dementia Risk: Moderate Drinking Helps

Alcohol and dementia risk. Can moderate drinking reduce the risk?

Alcohol and Dementia Risk

Researchers conducted a study of 3,069 community-living adults aged 75 years and older. All were in the Ginkgo Evaluation of Memory Study (GEMS).  That’s a federal research project. It reported a strong link between moderate drinking and lower risk of dementia.

alcohol and dementia riskAt the beginning of the study, 2,587 of the participants were cognitively normal. At that time, a total of 482 had mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

Researchers examined participants every six months. They did so for up to six years testing for changes in memory or thinking abilities.


The scientists adjusted for demographics, smoking, co-morbidities, depression, social activity, and baseline cognition. Cognitively normal participants who had one to two drinks daily enjoyed a 37% lower risk of dementia. But there was no improvement among those who began with mild cognitive impairment.

alcohol and dementia risk
Dr. Kaycee Sink

Dr. Kaycee Sink of Wake University School of Medicine was head researcher. “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.”

In short, drinking can prevent or reduce the development of dementia. But  it can’t reverse it.

The health benefits of moderate drinking are similar for beer, wine and spirits. The primary factor associated with health and long life appears to be the alcohol itself.


Popular Books

Andrews, J. When Someone You Love has Dementia. Practical Advice. Berkeley : Greystone.

Brown, J. and Hillam, J. Dementia, Your Questions Answered. NY: Churchill.

Engdahl, S. Dementia. Detroit: Gale

Sabbaugh, M. The Alzheimer’s Answer. Reduce Your Risk.
Hoboken: Wiley.

Smith, T. Reducing Your Risk of Dementia. NY: SPCK.


Sink, K., et al. Moderate Alcohol Intake: Nearly 40% Lower Risk of Dementia. Alz Ass’n Int Conf on Alz Disease. Vienna, Austria, July, 2009.


This site does not give advice about drinking alcohol and dementia risk. Please see a doctor for that.