One drink a day (or less) for women and 1-2 drinks (or less) for men reduces the risk of developing dementia, a study has found.
It works out to between 8 and 14 drinks per week.
The study is one of the largest — and longest — to look at the connection between alcohol and dementia.
Dr Kaycee Sink, one of the study’s authors, said:
“As of yet, we still have no cure for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, so it is important to look for things that might help people prevent the disease.
Moderate alcohol intake has been linked to lower risk of heart attacks, stroke, dementia, and death in middle-aged adults, but there is still controversy about alcohol intake in older adults.”
Over 3,000 people aged 75 or over took part in the research, which followed them for over six years.
The study found that those who drank moderately had a 37% reduction in the risk of developing dementia compared with those who did not drink at all.
In this study there was no link between the type of alcohol people drank and the benefits.
Dr Kaycee Sink
“We were excited to see that even in older adults, moderate alcohol intake decreases the risk of dementia,.
It is important to note, however, that our study found a significantly higher risk of dementia for heavy drinkers who started the study with mild cognitive impairment.”
The study can’t tell us whether people should abstain until they are in their 70s, but it seems likely the results reflect steady habits.
Dr Kaycee Sink said:
“The participants in this study self-reported their alcohol intake at the start, but it is unusual for people to start drinking in their 70s, so we assume that the habits they reported at the start of the study reflect stable drinking habits.
Without scientific data showing that it is beneficial, I wouldn’t recommend that non-drinkers start drinking in their 70s.”
Dr Kaycee Sink explained:
“Our results suggest that older adults who are normal cognitively and drink moderately do not need to change their drinking behavior.
If you have mild cognitive impairment however, it might benefit you to restrict your drinking and certainly not exceed one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men.”
The study was published in the journal Alzheimer’s and Dementia (Sink et al., 2009).
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
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