Dementia risk higher for middle-aged non-drinkers, study suggests

  • Dementia risk higher for middle-aged non-drinkers, study suggests

Dementia risk higher for middle-aged non-drinkers, study suggests

'Future research will need to examine drinking habits across a whole lifetime, and this will help to shed more light on the relationship between alcohol and dementia'.

Researcher Dr. Severine Sabia said: "Given the number of people living with dementia is expected to triple by 2050 and the absence of a cure, prevention is key".

Scientists have shown that complete abstinence from alcohol can be as harmful as its excessive use.

With people who drank more than 14 units a week the dementia risk increased by 17% with every additional seven units per week.

"We show that both long term alcohol abstinence and excessive alcohol consumption may increase the risk of dementia".

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".

Researchers stressed that the study is limited to the participants' alcohol consumption in middle-age.

A long-term study of more than 9,000 people, which tracked the health of civil servants working in London, found that people who drank over the recommended limits for men and women and also those who have been teetotal in midlife were at an increased risk of the disease. The participants were aged between 35 and 55 when the study began in the mid 1980s.

The team of French and British researchers suggested part of the excess risk of dementia in abstainers could be due to a greater risk of cardiometabolic disease reported in this group.

"Overall, no evidence was found that alcohol consumption between one unit per week and 14 units per week increases the risk of dementia".

In the United Kingdom, 14 units of alcohol a week is now the recommended maximum limit for both men and women, but many countries still use a much higher threshold to define harmful drinking.

At the end of the study, after a mean follow-up period of 23 years, there were 397 cases of dementia.

At the same time, the study cautioned, the findings "should not motivate people who do not drink to start drinking given the known detrimental effects of alcohol consumption for mortality, neuropsychiatric disorders, cirrhosis of the liver and cancer".

The authors say while the study is important to fill gaps in knowledge, "we should remain cautious and not change current recommendations on alcohol use based exclusively on epidemiological studies".

In the case of wine, earlier studies have suggested that so-called polyphenolic compounds may offer some protection to neural networks and blood vessels, but such findings remain controversial.