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Alcohol drinkers less likely to suffer dementia

Alcohol drinkers less likely to suffer dementia

Moderate to heavy drinkers are more likely to live to the age of 85 without dementia, study finds.

Academics from the University of California, San Diego, tracked more than 1,000 middle-class white men and women in the state, assessing participants every four years over the course of nearly three decades using a standard dementia screening test called the Mini Mental State Examination.

Accordingly, it was found that among participants 85 and older, individuals who consumed "moderate to heavy" amounts of alcohol five to seven days a week were twice as likely to be cognitively healthy than non-drinkers.

"This study is unique because we considered men and women's cognitive health at late age and found that alcohol consumption is not only associated with reduced mortality, but with greater chances of remaining cognitively healthy into older age," said senior author Dr. Linda McEvoy.

Moderate drinking involves consuming up to one alcoholic beverage a day for adult women of any age and men aged 65 and older; and up to two drinks a day for adult men under age 65. Heavy drinking is defined as up to three alcoholic beverages per day for women of any adult age and men 65 and older; and four drinks a day for adult men under 65. Drinking more than these amounts is categorised as excessive.

However, the researchers noted that there were few people who fell into the excessive category, so the results do not show how binge-type drinking may affect longevity and cognitive health.

The team also said the study does not suggest drinking is responsible for increased longevity and cognitive health. Alcohol consumption, particularly of wine, is associated with higher incomes and education levels, which in turn are associated with lower rates of smoking, lower rates of mental illness and better access to health care.

"This study shows that moderate drinking may be part of a healthy lifestyle to maintain cognitive fitness in ageing," explained lead author Erin Richard. "However, it is not a recommendation for everyone to drink. Some people have health problems that are made worse by alcohol, and others cannot limit their drinking to only a glass or two per day. For these people, drinking can have negative consequences."

The findings are published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

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