Light Drinking May Cause Dementia
Light to moderate alcohol consumption may cause cognitive decline or dementia. Two new studies presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference® 2012 in Vancouver Canada suggest that moderate alcohol use later in life, heavy use early in life and binge drinking late in life can all cause cognitive decline.
Of the two studies, one looked at women in their 60's over a 20 year period. This study tracked 1,300 women and found that low to moderate drinking in later life appeared to increase women’s risk of developing mild cognitive impairment and full dementia.
Specifically, women who reported drinking more in the past than later in the study were 30% more likely to develop cognitive impairment. Moderate drinking over the 20 year period increased women’s chances of cognitive impairment by 60% and women who went from non-drinking to drinking were at a 200% increased risk of cognitive impairment.
"In this group of older women, moderate alcohol consumption was not protective," Tina Hoang, MSPH, of NCIRE/The Veterans Health Research Institute said. "We found that heavier use earlier in life, moderate use in late-life, and transitioning to drinking in late-life were associated with an increased risk of developing cognitive impairment. These findings suggest that alcohol use in late-life may not be beneficial for cognitive function in older women."
This has caused some people to call for governments to lower their recommendations for older people’s alcohol consumption. But scientists caution that this study is only the first and more research is needed before any conclusions can be made.This study does not take into account the effects of alcohol on young women or men.
"It may be that the brains of oldest old adults are more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol, but it is also possible that factors associated with changing alcohol use related to coping or loss could be involved. Clinicians should carefully assess their older patients for both how much they drink and any changes in patterns of alcohol use," Hoang added.Continued on the next page