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Some alcohol may ward off dementia

8th March 2011

Researchers in Germany have found that moderate alcohol consumption in the over-75s is linked to a decrease in the risk of dementia.

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People who drank two to three units a day in that age group were 29% less likely to have developed dementia during the three-year study.

Researchers from the Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim and other institutions in Germany studied 3,202 German over-75s who did not have dementia at the start of the study.

By the end of the study, 217 of them had developed dementia, with 111 of those diagnosed with Alzheimer's.

Drinking alcohol was linked to a lower risk of developing dementia, but on closer analysis, the research team narrowed the effects down to an intake of 20-29g of alcohol daily.

Experts said the results should be interpreted with caution, however, and that UK recommendations for alcohol intake would not change.

Published in the medical journal Age and Ageing, the study received funding from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

The cohort study set out to investigate whether current alcohol consumption was associated with the development of overall dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Long-term excessive alcohol use has been linked to neurodegenerative diseases and is known to be detrimental to brain function.

But light-to-moderate alcohol intake has been linked in previous studies to a lower risk of cognitive decline in people under 75.

The German study wanted to find out whether the link was maintained in later years.

Experts point to potential inaccuracies when using self-reporting as a way of assessing people's drinking patterns. There were also no data on the amount the study participants drank earlier in life.

It is also possible that the people who were diagnosed with dementia during the follow-up period were already on their way to getting it, but had not yet been diagnosed.

The study subjects were screened by general practitioners with a psychometric test for the purposes of the study.

They were then interviewed about their alcohol consumption at the beginning of the study, halfway through, and again after three years.

 

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