Middle-aged alcohol abstinence and heavy alcohol consumption increase the risk of dementia
It has long been known that heavy alcohol consumption increases the risk of dementia enormously. However, there are also indications that low alcohol consumption can help prevent dementia. This has now been shown again in a study. Wine is obviously particularly well suited for this.
More and more people suffer from dementia
According to experts, around 47 million people worldwide suffer from dementia, the majority of them from Alzheimer's. While the exact causes of the disease are still unclear, scientists have identified a number of risk factors. Heavy alcohol consumption is one of them. However, if you drink moderately in middle years, a new study can even lower your risk of developing the disease.
Moderate drinking is associated with a reduced risk of dementia
People who do not drink alcohol in the middle age or consume a lot of alcoholic beverages have an increased risk of developing dementia.
There is the result of a study published in the medical journal "BMJ".
As it says in a report in the specialist magazine "Eurek Alert!", The underlying mechanisms in the two groups are probably different.
Previous studies have shown that moderate drinking is associated with a reduced risk of dementia.
Researchers found that regular moderate red wine consumption can obviously protect against dementia. Among other things, this has to do with the positive effect of the polyphenols contained in the wine on nerve structures and blood vessels.
Medical records from over 9,000 government employees
A team of researchers led by Séverine Sabia from France's National Institute for Health (INSERM) and from University College London (UCL) looked in the new study at the relationship between alcohol consumption in middle age and the risk of dementia in early age.
They also examined whether cardiometabolic diseases (including stroke, coronary artery disease and diabetes) had any effect on this relationship.
Their investigation is based on the analysis of medical data from 9,087 British officials aged between 35 and 55.
A total of 397 cases of dementia were recorded during the observation period. The average age at diagnosis was 76 years.
Wine is more suitable than beer
According to a UCL communication, the researchers found that mid-term abstinence or drinking more than 14 units a week was associated with a higher risk of dementia compared to drinking 1-14 units.
According to the scientists, the risk of dementia due to heavy drinking increases by 17 percent for every seven additional alcohol units per week.
In the UK, 14 units of alcohol per week is the recommended maximum for men and women, but in many other countries a much higher threshold is used to define harmful drinking.
14 units correspond to about six glasses of beer (half a liter) with a four percent alcohol content or six glasses of 175 milliliter wine with an alcohol content of 13 percent or 14 glasses of high-proof alcohol of 25 milliliters with an alcohol content of 40 percent.
The study also showed that, among moderate drinkers, wine drinkers have a lower risk of dementia compared to consumers of beer or high-proof alcohol.
The researchers also found that the higher risk of dementia for abstainers is due to a greater risk of cardiometabolic disease.
Nobody should be encouraged to drink
In summary, these results suggest that abstinence and excessive alcohol consumption are associated with an increased risk of dementia, according to the researchers, although the underlying mechanisms are likely to be different in the two groups.
However, the scientists also point out that this was an observational study, so that no clear conclusions can be drawn about the cause and effect.
However, according to the study authors, their results reinforce "the evidence that excessive alcohol consumption is a risk factor for dementia".
Their results are intended to "not motivate people who do not drink to drink, given the known harmful effects of alcohol consumption on mortality, neuropsychiatric disorders, cirrhosis of the liver and cancer".
Some abstainers may have drunk a lot earlier
This study is important because it closes gaps in knowledge, "but we should remain careful and current alcohol consumption recommendations should not be based solely on epidemiological studies," said Sevil Yasar of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, who was not part of the study.
"Since this study only looks at mid-life drinking, we don't know anything about their drinking habits in early adulthood," Sara Alarisio, director of the Alzheimer's Research Center in the UK, told the Science Media Center.
It is possible that people who were abstinent during the study period drank a lot earlier and thus increased their risk of dementia.
"People who completely abstain from alcohol may have had a strong alcohol addiction in the past, which can make it difficult to interpret the connections between alcohol consumption and health," said the expert.
Healthy brain aging
"Future research will need to study drinking habits over a lifetime and this will help shed more light on the relationship between alcohol and dementia," said Imarisio.
She also pointed out that it is important not only to avoid excessive alcohol consumption because of the reduced risk of dementia:
"We know that a healthy lifestyle, including reducing alcohol consumption, can improve health and reduce the risk of dementia, and a good motto is: what's good for the heart is good for the brain," said Imarisio .
"Not smoking, a healthy and balanced diet, staying mentally and physically active and keeping blood pressure and cholesterol in check are all means to support healthy brain aging." (Ad)