[A version of this item appears in: Dementia: the Latest Evidence Newsletter (RWHT), Volume 2 Issue 4, November 2011].
The “Behind the Headlines” service is run by Bazian (the company responsible for providing services available from both NHS Choices and NHS Evidence). Medical topics in the news are reviewed. This particular report looks at the effects of alcohol consumption on health. Research into alcohol use and abuse is categorised under various headings including the heart, cancer, pregnancy and other issues (including dementia, brain diseases and mental health). The media’s reporting on the research into alcohol, the evidence itself – which is often confusing and superficially contradictory – and the underlying science, are explored.
Looking specifically at research into alcohol consumption and its presumed influence on dementia, this report covers both sides of the debate by looking back over some of the topics which have arisen over previous years.
Heavy drinking over a long period can result in brain damage and quite probably dementia; hence “Alcohol could cause one in four cases of dementia (the Daily Mail, May 11th 2009)” and “Binge drinkers are putting themselves at risk of Alzheimer’s in later life (the Daily Mail Today, November 3rd 2008)”.
Conversely, light to moderate alcohol consumption appears to offer some protection against the risk of developing dementia; see for example “A glass of wine a day cuts dementia risk (The Daily Telegraph, March 3rd 2011)”. A number of systematic reviews appear to confirm this finding, making it harder to dismiss than the current Behind the Headlines Special Report seems to imply.
What’s your poison? A special report on alcohol in the media. London: NHS Choices, October 19th 2011.
What’s your poison: A sober analysis of alcohol and health in the media. A behind the headlines special report. London: Bazian (NHS Choices), October 19th 2011.
Selected Evidence, Concerning Dementia Risk, “Against” Heavy Alcohol Consumption
Whiteley, C. Wanigaratne, S. [and] Marshall, J. [et al] (2009). Autobiographical memory in detoxified dependent drinkers. Alcohol and Alcoholism (Oxford, Oxfordshire), 2009, Vol.44(4), pp.429-30.
Gupta, S. Warner, J. (2008). Alcohol-related dementia: a 21st-century silent epidemic? The British Journal of Psychiatry: the journal of mental science, 2008, Vol.193(5), pp.351-3.
Selected Evidence, Concerning Dementia Risk, “For” Light to Moderate Alcohol Consumption
Full Text Link Note: This link is for the abstract. A subscription is required to access this article.
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.
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Anstey, KJ. Mack, HA. [and] Cherbuin, N. (2009). Alcohol consumption as a risk factor for dementia and cognitive decline: meta-analysis of prospective studies. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry : official journal of the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry, 2009, Vol.17(7), pp.542-55. (Click here to view the PubMed abstract).
Neafsey, EJ. Collins, MA. (2011). Moderate alcohol consumption and cognitive risk. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, August 11th 2011. [Epub ahead of print]. (Click here to view the PubMed abstract).