Daily glass of wine or pint of beer may help stave off dementia

Daily glass of wine or pint of beer boosts brain power in middle-aged and elderly people and could help stave off dementia, study claims

  • Scientists said eight drinks a week for women and 15 for men may be beneficial
  • Even those who drink less each week may also be able to benefit, they claimed
  • Results based on survey of 19,887 people who were tested every two years

A daily glass of wine or pint of beer could help middle-aged and elderly people stave off dementia and maintain brain power, a study has claimed.

Scientists said that eight alcoholic drinks a week for women and 15 for men can reduce the rate of cognitive decline, leading to better overall mental health, word recall and vocabulary.

And even those who drink a smaller amount of alcohol each week could benefit, their results suggested.

The study showed that drinking once a day could help stave off the effects of dementia. It was based on results gathered from a survey in the US (stock)

In the study, scientists analysed data from 19,887 people on their health and economic status from the US Health and Retirement Study.

Each underwent tests every two years between 1997 and 2008 to show changes to their health by measuring four factors: Total cognition, mental status, word recall and vocabulary. 

When the scores of the 6,010 low-to-moderate drinkers were compared to those of never-drinkers, scientists found the former was ‘significantly less likely’ to be suffering from declines in the four factors than the latter.

Based on their results, they suggested drinking 12 alcoholic drinks a week to slow the reduction in cognitive function, 13 for mental status, ten for word recall and 14 for vocabulary.

The results also formed a U-shaped graph, suggesting those who drink significantly more or less are unlikely to reap the alleged benefits of alcohol.

The study, which included 16,950 white participants, also suggested that alcohol’s protective capacity differed depending on ancestry.

This graph shows the association in decline of scores and alcohol consumption. The error bars indicate 95 per cent confidence limits

The magnitude of associations between the four factors was stronger among white participants than black, the scientists said.

The study also included 11,943 women, about 60 per cent of the total sample, although there were no clear differences identified between the genders. Participants had a mean age of 61 years. 

‘The mechanisms underlying the beneficial association of low to moderate alcohol consumption with cognitive function are unclear,’ said lead author Dr Li Changwei, from the University of Georgia, US.

‘Several studies have found that low to moderate alcohol consumption is associated with better cardiovascular functions, fewer cardiac events, and longer survival compared with abstainers and heavy drinkers.

‘However, a recent study found that alcohol consumption increases the risk of hypertension and stroke regardless of dose, which decreases the likelihood of this potential mechanism.

‘The role of alcohol drinking in cognitive function may be a balance of its beneficial and harmful effects on the cardiovascular system.’

The sample was 60 per cent women, with 11,943. However, no clear differences were identified between the two sexes

Further studies have suggested alcohol consumption can fuel the expression of proteins that protect and boost brain development. 

Published last year in The Lancet, a study on 500,000 people in China found alcohol consumption ‘uniformly increases’ blood pressure and stroke risk, and has little net effect on the risk of heart attack.

The study was published in JAMA Open Network.

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