Dementia could be prevented in middle-aged and elderly people with a small daily tipple, it’s been claimed. Scientists have found eight alcoholic drinks a week for women and 15 for men can reduce the rate of cognitive decline and improve mental health and word recall. Results also showed those who drink smaller amounts of alcohol each week also benefit, suggesting drinking in moderation is key.
As part of the study, the scientists analysed data from 19,887 older people.]
Those who drank up to two drinks a day were a third less likely to have poor cognitive function, compared to those who didn’t drink alcohol.
Cognitive function includes learning, thinking, reasoning, remembering, problem solving, decision making and attention.
On average, their mental capacity was shown to be 29 percent stronger.
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Dr Changwei Lei, the study author, said the results substantiate claims low level alcohol consumption doesn’t impact cognitive function.
He said: “Low to moderate drinking was associated with consistently high cognitive function trajectories.
“Test scores at the middle-aged assessment were relatively high – and remained high at each subsequent assessment.”
A “decreased rate of cognitive decline” was also shown in middle-aged or older participants.
But while little alcohol consumption demonstrated benefits, too much had a reverse effect.
The optimal amount of drinks was shown to be 14 drinks per week.
Dr Lei, who’s an epidemiologist at Georgia University, concluded low to moderate drinking was linked to better overall mental health, word recall and vocabulary.
Compared to those who never drank alcohol, low to moderate drinkers had slower rates of cognitive decline across time.
He said: “Dr Lei said: “The role of drinking in cognitive function may be a balance of its beneficial and harmful effects on the cardiovascular system.”
Excessive alcohol consumption over a length time period can lead to brain damage and may increase your risk of developing dementia, warns Alzheimer’s Society.
It adds: “As such, people who do not currently drink alcohol should not be encouraged to start as a way to reduce dementia risk.
“Conversely, those who drink alcohol within the recommended guidelines are not advised to stop on the grounds of reducing the risk of dementia, although cutting back on alcohol consumption may bring other health benefits.”
How can alcohol damage the brain?
Heavy alcohol consumption over a long period of time can lead to brain damage.
Alzheimer’s Society explains: “People who drink heavily over a long period of time are more likely to have a reduced volume of the brain’s white matter, which helps to transmit signals between different brain regions.
“This can lead to issues with the way the brain functions.
“Long-term heavy alcohol consumption can also result in a lack of vitamin thiamine B1 and Korsakoff’s Syndrome, a memory disorder affecting short term memory.”
More than 850,000 people in the UK have dementia. If you suspect you or a loved one has the condition, contact a GP.