How does regular alcohol consumption affect cognitive skills?
Young people in particular often go out on weekends to celebrate, dance and drink alcohol. Alcohol is actually thought to have all sorts of negative effects on human health, but researchers have now found that regular moderate alcohol consumption in older adults leads to a reduced risk of dementia or other cognitive impairments.
Scientists at the University of California, San Diego found that moderate alcohol consumption on a regular basis results in people over the age of 85 having a lower risk of dementia or other cognitive impairments compared to people who do not drink alcohol. The doctors published the results of their study in the journal "Journal of Alzheimer's Disease".
Alcohol consumption affects cognitive health in old age
Previous studies had found a correlation between moderate alcohol consumption and longevity. But the current investigation was quite unique. She found that alcohol consumption is not only associated with reduced mortality, but also affects the likelihood of people remaining cognitively healthy at an advanced age, explains the author Prof. Dr. Linda McEvoy from UC San Diego School of Medicine.
Effects of alcohol consumption in people aged 85 and over
In particular, men and women aged 85 and over who consume moderate to high amounts of alcohol five to seven days a week are twice as likely to be cognitively healthy compared to non-drinkers, the experts explain. The cognitive health of the subjects was measured every four years over a period of 29 years. A standard dementia screening test was carried out for this.
Study used guidelines from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
Gender-specific and age-related guidelines from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism were used to assess the amounts of alcohol consumed. If people over the age of 65 consumed at least one alcoholic beverage or a maximum of two alcoholic beverages a day, this was classified as moderate alcohol consumption. When people over the age of 65 consumed three alcoholic beverages a day, this was considered heavy alcohol consumption. If the consumption was 4 alcoholic beverages a day, this was classified as excessive drinking, the researchers explain in a press release on their study results.
Only a few test subjects showed excessive drinking behavior
There were few people with excessive drinking behavior in the study. For this reason, the study does not show the effects on longevity and the cognitive health of excessive drinkers, the scientists explain. However, it is known that excessive alcohol consumption can cause alcohol-related dementia, the experts add.
Other factors could have an impact on the result
The researchers also said the study results did not indicate that alcohol consumption is responsible for increased longevity and better cognitive health. Above all, the consumption of wine is also associated with a higher income and better education. In turn, these factors are associated with a lower rate of smokers, a lower rate of mental illness, and better access to health care, the study's authors say. The researchers therefore adjusted the statistical analysis to factors such as smoking and obesity to remove these variables. So the study is only based on statistical relationships between different demographic factors, behaviors and their health consequences, the scientists explain.
Doctors examine a total of 1,344 elderly subjects
A particular advantage of the study was that the data come from a relatively homogeneous population in a geographically well-defined area, the researchers explain. All of the participating 1,344 subjects (728 women and 616 men) came from Rancho Bernardo, a location in San Diego County. More than 99 percent of the study participants were Caucasian.
No call for alcohol consumption
The results of the study show that moderate drinking can be part of a healthy lifestyle in order to maintain cognitive fitness in aging, explains author Erin Richard. However, this should not be a recommendation for everyone to drink alcohol. Some people have health problems that are exacerbated by alcohol. Other people simply cannot limit themselves to one or two alcoholic beverages, and drinking can have particularly negative consequences for such people, the expert adds. (as)