Published: Sat, August 04, 2018
Medical | By

Teetotallers, like big drinkers, more prone to dementia, says study

Teetotallers, like big drinkers, more prone to dementia, says study

People who abstain from drinking alcohol in middle age may be at a heightened risk of dementia later in life, research has found.

As people live longer, the number living with dementia is expected to triple by 2050.

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

Among excessive drinkers - those who consumed more than 14 units per week, the equivalent of over four pints of five per cent ABV beer or six 175ml glasses of average strength wine - experts found a heightened risk of dementia which increased the more a person drank.

So a team of researchers from Inserm (French National Institute of Health and Medical Research) based in France and from UCL in the United Kingdom set out to investigate the association between midlife alcohol consumption and risk of dementia into early old age.

"The next steps should include confirmation of findings in other long term cohort studies and ideally a randomised clinical trial, to answer pressing questions about the possible protective effects of light to moderate alcohol use on risk of dementia and the mediating role of cardiovascular disease".

Researchers say it's almost impossible to definitively determine the effect of alcohol consumption - as it would require a trial in which participants would have to stop drinking or start drinking heavily. In moderation, of course, unless you want to increase your chances of developing dementia.


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.

Meanwhile, among those drinking above 14 units a week of alcohol, every seven unit a week increase in consumption was associated with 17 percent increase in dementia risk, said Sabia.

Currently, the United Kingdom guidelines for the consumption of alcohol stand at 14 units per week for both men and women.

The long-term study - which tracked the health of civil servants working in London - found that both groups of people who drank over the recommended limits and also those who have abstained from alcohol entirely were at an increased risk of contracting the disease.

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

'The study tells us little about how drinking above low risk guidance beyond the of age of 55 affects the development of dementia.

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.

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