A new report published in the British Medical Journal has found that moderate drinkers are at the lowest risk of developing dementia, compared to non-drinkers and heavy drinkers.
The study monitored the health of more than 9000 people in the UK aged between 35 and 55 when the study began in 1985, in a bid to examine the association between alcohol and consumption and the risk of dementia.
The long-term study then recorded the people over the next 23 years and it concluded that “the risk of dementia was increased in people who abstained from alcohol in mid-life, or consumed in excess of 14 units of alcohol per week”.
The report’s authors said: “In this longitudinal study, multiple approaches to examine the association between alcohol consumption and dementia present converging evidence on three key findings on abstinence, excessive alcohol consumption, and the role of cardiometabolic disease.
“First, the risk of dementia was higher in those abstaining from alcohol in midlife. Alcohol consumption trajectories from midlife to early old age supported these findings – both long term abstainers and those reporting decreased alcohol consumption had an increased risk of dementia.
“Second, alcohol consumption [greater than] 14 units/week increased the risk of dementia in a linear fashion; an excess risk that was evident when alcohol consumption was assessed at ages 50, 60, and 70 years. Data using hospital admission for chronic disease caused by high alcohol consumption showed a four times higher risk of dementia, supporting findings on the neurotoxic effects of alcohol consumption >14 units/week.
“Thirdly, multistate models showed that part of the excess risk of dementia in abstainers was attributable to the greater risk of cardiometabolic disease in this group.”
They added: “Taken together, these results suggest that abstention and excessive alcohol consumption are associated with an increased risk of dementia, although the underlying mechanisms are likely to be different in the two groups.
“Overall, no evidence was found that alcohol consumption between one unit/week and 14 units/week increases the risk of dementia.”
Fergus Taylor, Executive Director of Alcohol Beverages Australia, welcomed the report’s findings, telling TheShout that report backs evidence supporting health benefits for moderate drinkers.
“There is a wealth of evidence which shows moderate drinkers have better health outcomes than abstainers and this new research shows moderate drinkers also have a lower risk of developing dementia,” Taylor told TheShout.
“The overwhelming majority of Australians drink responsibly and this study reinforces the health benefits of that sensible behaviour.”