Alcohol intake linked to dementia risk

27 September 2019

Researchers in the US have revealed that alcohol intake in later life is linked with dementia risk. Their findings are published today (Friday 27 September) in the journal JAMA.

The research team looked at over 3000 people living in the US. The study participants were over the age of 72 and didn’t have dementia at the beginning of the study. Participants recorded the amount of alcohol they drank and completed memory and thinking tests. The researchers then followed volunteers over several years to see if they went on to develop dementia.

The researchers found that people who abstained from drinking were at increased risk of dementia. Those who drank more than 14 alcoholic drinks per week also increased their dementia risk.

Dr Sara Imarisio, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“There’s a well-established link between heavy drinking and the risk of dementia, but it is difficult to say whether moderate alcohol intake has any impact on brain health when compared to not drinking at all.

“Some non-drinkers may have a history of heavy alcohol use, and this makes it difficult to untangle links between drinking habits and health.

“This study only looked at people’s drinking in later life, and we don’t know about their drinking habits in their earlier years. Research suggests that our lifestyle in middle age may have the greatest impact on our future risk of dementia.

“There are many good health reasons to keep an eye on how much alcohol you’re drinking. Current alcohol guidelines recommend not regularly drinking more than 14 units a week for both men and women.

“Dementia is caused by physical diseases of the brain, but there are things we can do to reduce the risk of developing dementia. The best current evidence indicates that as well as only drinking within the recommended guidelines, staying physically and mentally active, eating a healthy balanced diet, not smoking, and keeping weight, cholesterol and blood pressure in check are all good ways to keep the brain healthy as we age.”