Drinking moderate amounts of alcohol is linked to a 45% lower risk of dementia, new research concludes.
Moderate drinkers — those who drink no more than around a bottle and half of wine a week — saw the reduced risk in comparison to those who do not drink.
Moderate drinkers also had a lower risk of dementia than those who drank heavily.
As alcohol intake increases, so does the risk of dementia.
A couple of alcoholic drinks per day, though, can help clear the brain of toxins, some research finds.
Low levels of alcohol — the equivalent of around 2.5 standard drinks per day — may help to remove waste linked to Alzheimer’s disease and reduce inflammation in the brain.
The study’s authors write:
“We show that both long term alcohol abstinence and excessive alcohol consumption may increase the risk of dementia.
Given the number of people living with dementia is expected to triple by 2050 and the absence of a cure, prevention is key.”
The study’s conclusions come from an analysis of 9,087 people who were followed for around 23 years between 1985 and 1993.
Dr Sevil Yasar, writing in a linked editorial, said:
“The most intriguing finding from this study was the significantly increased risk of dementia among abstainers, including long term abstainers and participants who became abstainers, and that association was only present in those who abstained from wine.”
Dr Yasar continued:
“Wine, in addition to alcohol, contains polyphenolic compounds, which have been associated with neuroprotective effects on both neurodegenerative and vascular pathways, and with cardioprotective effects through inflammation reduction, inhibition of platelet aggregation, and alteration of lipid profile.”
One limitation of the study is that people who abstain from alcohol may have a history of overindulgence.
Along with the study design, this makes it difficult to draw firm conclusions about causality.
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
The study was published in the BMJ (Sabia et al., 2018).