“lowers dementia risk” in the elderly
Wednesday, March 19, 2003
By Nick Lamb
Drinking light-to-moderate amounts of alcohol appears to protect
against dementia in older adults, recent US research suggests.
Photo Matthew Munro - Health Media Ltd
Alcohol linked to lower dementia risk
In a study of more than 700 elderly people, researchers found
that, compared with abstainers, consumption of one to six
alcoholic drinks per week was associated with a significantly
lower risk of incident dementia.
Although previous studies have shown that moderate alcohol
consumption is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular
disease in the elderly, studies of alcohol consumption and
dementia have shown conflicting results.
Dr Kenneth Mukamal, from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical
Center in Boston, and colleagues conducted a case-control
study of alcohol consumption and risk of incident dementia
in the Cardiovascular Health Study, a prospective, population-based
study of adults aged 65 and older in the US.
Dementia patients were identified through a series of neurological
and neuropsychiatric screening tests between 1992 and 1999.
Follow-up examinations were conducted each year.
The team compared self-reported alcohol use among 373 patients
with incident dementia and a similar number of age-matched
controls. Weekly alcohol consumption was categorised as none,
less than one drink, one to six drinks, seven to 13 drinks
and 14 or more drinks.
Reporting in the Journal of the American Medical Association,
the team found that abstainers were twice as likely to develop
dementia as individuals who consumed between one and six drinks
The researchers also found that the link between alcohol use
and dementia was affected by gender and possession of the
apolipoprotein E-e4 (APOE-e4) allele.
Subjects who carried the APOE-e4 allele and who consumed more
than six drinks per week had a substantially higher risk of
For women, the risk of dementia was lower among those who
consumed seven or more drinks per week. By contrast, men had
a “U-shaped” relationship between alcohol use and odds of
Dr Mukamal’s team advises, however, that women should not
exceed the recommended daily intake of one alcoholic drink
The researchers note that their study group represented a
healthy group of older adults and thus their findings may
not be applicable to the general population.
“However, our results are consistent with the hypothesis that
light-to-moderate drinking has a protective effect on long-term
cognitive function,” they conclude.
Reference: Mukamal et al, Journal of the American Medical
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