Not drinking alcohol in middle age linked to increased risk of dementia

Pearl Mccarthy
August 4, 2018

"Future research will need to examine drinking habits across a whole lifetime, and this well 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".

Previous studies indicate that moderate drinking is associated with a reduced risk of dementia, whereas both abstinence and heavy drinking are associated with a risk of dementia.

People who have sworn off alcohol for decades or longer run a higher risk of dementia late in life than moderate drinkers, according to a new study.

"These results suggest that abstention and excessive alcohol consumption are associated with an increased risk of dementia, although the underlying mechanisms are likely to be different in the two groups", the research concluded.

A paper in the latest edition of the British Medical Journal is the latest published findings of data from University College London's long-running Whitehall II study - also known as the "stress and health study", which began in the 1980s and covered staff from a range of departments.

The average age of participants was 50.

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.

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Of the 9,087 participants, 397 cases of dementia were recorded over an average follow-up period of 23 years.

Moreover, the study showed that "excess risk of dementia in abstainers was attributable to the greater risk of cardiometabolic disease" for middle-aged non-drinkers.

A NEW STUDY has shown that not drinking alcohol in middle age could increase the risk of developing dementia.

Commenting on the study, Dr Sara Imarisio, the head of research at Alzheimer's Research UK, said: "As this study only looked at people's drinking in midlife, we don't know about their drinking habits earlier in adulthood, and it is possible that this may contribute to their later life dementia risk".

However, the researchers said that this is an observational study, so no firm conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect, and they cannot rule out the possibility that some of the risk may be due to unmeasured factors.

Chronic heavy drinking has been clearly established as a major risk factor for all types of dementia, especially the early onset of the disease.

For instance, too much boozing increases the chance of cancer and liver disease as well as brain damage. "We recommend that people enjoy a drink responsibly, but don't overdo it".

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