Middle age teetotallers face dementia risk

Nora Nguyen
August 5, 2018

However, previous research has shown non-drinkers are at an increased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, both of which could contribute to dementia.

A total of 397 cases of dementia were recorded. The participants were aged between 35 and 55 when the study began in the mid 1980s.

However, the study says people who drink above the recommended alcohol limit of 14 units per week are also at an increased risk of developing dementia.

In an accompanying BMJ editorial commentary Sevil Yasar, an associate professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in the United States, said the study contained a number of significant findings.

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.

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'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 authors wrote. "However, adjustment for confounding factors did not alter the findings".

"We show that both long term alcohol abstinence and excessive alcohol consumption may increase the risk of dementia". In fact, researchers found those who abstain from alcohol are 45 percent more likely to develop dementia than those who drink about half a bottle of wine per week.

'People who completely abstain from alcohol may have a history of heavy drinking and this can make it hard to interpret the links between drinking and health.

The study also confirmed that heavy drinking is strongly linked to dementia, with a 17 per cent increase in risk for each additional seven drinks per week.

The 14-drink-per-week maximum - similar to guidelines in other countries - is the equivalent of six medium (175-millilitre) glasses of wine at 13 per cent alcohol, six pints of four per cent beer, or 14 25-ml shots of 40-degree spirits.

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"Future research will need to examine drinking habits across a whole lifetime, and this will help to shed more light on the relationship between alcohol and dementia", Sara Imarisio, head of research at Alzheimer's Research UK, told the Science Media Centre.

"A good motto tends to be, what is good for your heart is good for your brain".

As laid out by their National Alcohol Diary Survey (2014), 54% of 18 to 75-year-old drinkers were classified as "harmful drinkers", equating to 1.35 million harmful drinkers in Ireland.

The boffins say teetotallers should not see the findings as an excuse to drink - because there are many other risks associated with alcohol.

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