Published: Sun, August 05, 2018
Medicine | By Tracy Klein

Not Drinking Alcohol Increases Risk Of Dementia

Not Drinking Alcohol Increases Risk Of Dementia

Researchers from French national institute of health and medical research (INSERM) and UCL investigated the association between midlife alcohol consumption and risk of dementia into early old age.

A total of almost 400 dementia cases - with onset occurring, on average, at age 76 - were reported.

The research, which began in the mid-1980s, tracked the health of over 9,000 people aged 33 to 55 years over the years since the its inception. They were followed up for an average of 23 years, with cases of dementia identified through hospital, mental health services, and mortality records.

While chronic heavy drinking was found to be linked to a higher risk for dementia, a new study suggests that people who abstain from drinking in middle age are also more likely to develop the disease.

In an accompanying BMJ editorial commentary Sevil Yasar, an associate professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in the United States, said the study contained a number of significant findings.

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. "However, adjustment for confounding factors did not alter the findings".

What is slightly odd, however, is that the higher risk of dementia for people who abstained from alcohol was only apparent if they didn't drink wine.

Guidance from the United Kingdom chief medical officer states that men and women should drink no more than 14 units of alcohol each week - the equivalent of around six pints of beer.

"Future research will need to examine drinking habits across a whole lifetime, and this will help to shed more light on the relationship between alcohol and dementia", Sara Imarisio, head of research at Alzheimer's Research UK, told the Science Media Centre.

'Not smoking, eating a healthy balanced diet, staying mentally and physically active and keeping blood pressure and cholesterol in check are all ways to support healthy brain ageing'. 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.

Dr Rao added that there were also other lifestyle factors that could affect the development of dementia and make it hard to draw any meaningful conclusions.

"Not only does moderate, sensible consumption of alcohol reduce the incidence of dementia compared to teetotallers, there is evidence it also has beneficial effects in guarding against type II diabetes, heart disease, stroke, macular degeneration and many other conditions".

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