People who don’t drink, like big drinkers, more prone to dementia

Ben Davidson
August 5, 2018

Above this, though, researchers noted that those that drink heavily risked a 17% rise in risk of developing dementia for every additional 7 units consumed.

But Severine Sabia, who led the study, warned: 'This should not motivate people who do not drink to start drinking due to adverse effects of alcohol on mortality, cirrhosis of the liver and cancer'.

Yasar said the findings raised the question of "a possible protective effect from moderate alcohol consumption" that was further supported by findings of an increased risk of dementia "observed only in those who abstained from wine".

With heavy drinking, however, dementia became even more prevalent, though for different reasons.

The research, which began in the mid-1980s, tracked the health of over 9,000 people aged 33 to 55 years over the years since the its inception.

Scientists at the Universite Paris-Saclay in France found those who did not drink in middle age had a 47 per cent higher risk of dementia compared with those who consumed between one unit and the recommended limit of 14 units of alcohol per week.

They were followed up for an average of 23 years, with cases of dementia identified through hospital records.

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"Abstainers were mainly women, had lower education and physical activity, were obese, and had a higher prevalence of cardiometabolic risk factors, all associated with an increased risk of dementia, which could explain the differences", she said.

She said: "People who completely abstain from alcohol may have a history of heavy drinking and this can make it hard to interpret the links between drinking and health".

Perhaps the most important contribution of the recently published research, however, was the discovery that doing the exact opposite of excessive drinking - abstinence from alcohol consumption in middle-age - is a factor for developing the illness as well.

The 14-drink-per-week maximum - similar to guidelines in other countries - is the equivalent of six medium (175-millilitre) glasses of wine at 13 per cent alcohol, six pints of four per cent beer, or 14 25-ml shots of 40-degree spirits.

"We know a healthy lifestyle 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".

Dr Rao added that there were also other lifestyle factors that could affect the development of dementia and make it hard to draw any meaningful conclusions. This being said, earlier consumption may contribute to higher dementia risk, as the illness "involves neuropathological changes over many years, perhaps decades".

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