[A version of this abstract appears in: Dementia: the Latest Evidence Newsletter (RWHT) Volume 1 Issue 8 March 2011].
Drinking moderate amounts of alcohol regularly appears to protect against dementia, according to a new study in the journal Age and Ageing. This research indicates that Germans aged 75 and older who consume two to three drinks per day decrease their risk of dementia by up to 60% compared to non-drinkers. An intake of 20-29g a day is associated with a significantly reduced risk.
Looking specifically at the data for Alzheimer’s Disease, the researchers found that people who drink alcohol are 42% less likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s compared with teetotallers. There is insufficient data currently to determine how much protection alcohol offers against other forms of dementia, such as Parkinson’s-related dementia and Lewy body dementia.
The effect is strongest among people who drink two to three beverages per day, but the researchers conclude that any amount of alcohol has some preventative qualities.
Of course, over-indulgence with alcohol is unhealthy at any age, and can even cause alcoholic dementia. A small minority of participants in the study have been diagnosed with alcohol-induced dementia.
Experts who have since reviewed this research have decided that UK alcohol recommendations need not change in the light of these findings. These guidelines specify a daily maximum of three to four units for men, and two to three for women, with one unit being equal to 10ml (8g) of alcohol.
Alcohol ‘linked to lower dementia risk’. NHS Choices, March 4th 2011.
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Weyerer, S. Schäufele, M. Wiese, B. [et al] (2011). Current alcohol consumption and its relationship to incident dementia: results from a 3-year follow-up study among primary care attenders aged 75 years and older. Age and Ageing [Epub ahead of print], March 2nd 2011.