Results of a new study show that both heavy drinking and abstinence from drinking increases the risk of dementia. Experts urge the public to treat the findings with caution.
Alcohol And Dementia Risk
Dementia remains to be one of the diseases that scientists and researchers are still trying to understand. When it comes to the factors that may increase or decrease dementia risk, there is still no common contention as to what really affect a person’s risks and how it does so.
Particularly when it comes to alcohol, some researches show how drinking a little wine can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease whereas others found how even moderate drinking can lead to brain damage that can lead to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Not Too Much And Not Enough?
According to a new study published in The BMJ, the safe zone may be somewhere in between as their findings revealed that both abstinence and heavy drinking increases the risk for dementia. For their study, researchers examined over 9,000 participants between the ages of 35 and 55 at the beginning of the study, and followed them for the next 23 years.
Researchers regularly assessed the participants’ alcohol consumption and potential dependence using a questionnaire and records of alcohol-related hospital admissions, and also monitored hospital records for possible dementia, heart disease, or diabetes diagnoses. Of the participants, 397 developed dementia.
Evidently, the data revealed that those who abstained from drinking alcohol in midlife, as well as those who drank alcohol heavily had higher risks for dementia compared to those who drank moderately. Further, those who decreased alcohol consumption with age were also found to be more at risk of dementia.
Alcohol Consumption Threshold
That said, researchers state that the results of their study should not motivate non-drinkers to start drinking, for there are still many possible detrimental health effects of alcohol consumption such as cirrhosis, cancer, and neuropsychiatric disorders.
What they do encourage is the lowering of alcohol consumption thresholds so as to set a limit on the amount of alcohol consumption considered as “heavy drinking,” thereby promoting cognitive health.
“Given the number of people living with dementia is expected to triple by 20503 and the absence of a cure, prevention is key,” researchers note.
In an editorial reaction to the study, several experts urge the public to be careful of their interpretation of the results, and stressed the significance of alcohol consumption levels in the efforts to understand and reduce dementia risks. They also highlight the importance of safe alcohol consumption levels when it comes to overall health and lifestyle.
“We know that a healthy lifestyle, including cutting down on too much alcohol, can improve health and reduce dementia risk, and a good motto tends to be, what is good for your heart is good for your brain,” said Dr. Sara Imariso, the head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK.