Do we finally have a remedy against dementia?
Are you reading this post while sober?
I mean, keep reading, but why sober? : )
Does alcohol protect against dementia?
I read about this study in a business magazine and did not believe my eyes. So I went to the source, the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. On July 27, 2017 it published the results of Rancho Bernardo Study. Here are the main points I gathered from the article, you will find the full text of the study to peruse from the reference below(1).
The purpose of the study was to explore relation between alcohol intake and Cognitively healthy longevity (in other words, our ability to get older without losing our marbles). The study enrolled 1,344 adults between 1984-1987. During the enrollment and afterwards their alcohol intake was assessed using questionnaires. In the following years, every 4 years, starting in 1988 till 2009, they were also assessed for their cognitive status. Statistical analysis was done to adjust for other possible risk factors affecting cognition, including education, lifestyle and health conditions (diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, depression, among others).
By the end of the study they divided the participants into 3 groups based on the results of their assessments:
- Cognitively healthy longevity (CHL) group - those who lived to the age of 85 without cognitive impairment; - I think we all would like to be in this group :)
- Those who survived to the age of 85, but with cognitive impairment;
- Those who died before the age of 85.
How much do we drink?
Most of the study participants (88%) reported some drinking and
their drinking habits were defined as (pay attention here, where do you belong?)
- Moderate drinking: ≤1 drink/day for men and women over 65 and ≤2 drinks/day for men under 65;
- Heavy drinking: >1-3 drinks/day for men under 65 and women, >2-4 drinks/day for men under 65;
- Excessive drinking: >3 drinks/day for men over 65 and women, >4 drinks/day for men under 65.
How often do we drink?
They also categorized the participants by drinking frequency:
- infrequent drinkers (<2 times/month),
- weekly drinkers (1–4 times/week),
- near-daily drinkers (5–7 times/week).
When they compared the drinking levels for the above 3 groups, what did they find out?
The chances of reaching CHL were increasing with the amount of drinking, near-daily drinkers had 2-3 fold higher adjusted odds of Cognitively healthy longevity compared to nondrinkers!
The study authors conclude that
Although excessive drinking has negative health consequences, these results suggest that regular, moderate drinking may play a role in cognitively healthy longevity.
Now, before you reach for the bottle, some words of caution:
- A different study, one from Norway found increased risk of dementia with drinking(2)
- The study participants were older adults, there is plenty of evidence of underage drinking causing harm
- if you are of drinking age, drink responsibly, Drunk drivers kill!
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- Alcohol Intake and Cognitively Healthy Longevity in Community-Dwelling Adults: The Rancho Bernardo Study
- Alcohol consumption and risk of dementia up to 27 years later in a large, population-based sample: The HUNT study, Norway. Eur J Epidemiol 30: , 1049–1056.
- Photo courtesy of Michael Mroczek on Unsplash.