Not drinking alcohol in middle age 'increases dementia risk'

04 Août, 2018, 20:27 | Auteur: Yves Courtet
  • Going teetotal was associated with an increased risk of dementia

Abstinence in midlife was associated with a 45 per cent higher risk of dementia, compared with people who consumed between one and 14 units of alcohol per week. In total there were 397 cases of dementia identified through hospital, mental health services and mortality records.

Alcohol consumption was measured during assessments between 1985 and 1993, when the participants had an average age of 50.

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.

What is slightly odd, however, is that the higher risk of dementia for people who abstained from alcohol was only apparent if they didn't drink wine.

Worldwide, about seven per cent of people over 65 suffer from some form of dementia, a percentage that rises to 40 per cent above the age of 85.

"Not only does moderate, sensible consumption of alcohol reduce the incidence of dementia compared to teetotallers, there is evidence it also has beneficial effects in guarding against type II diabetes, heart disease, stroke, macular degeneration and many other conditions", said James Calder, head of public affairs at SIBA.

A long-term study of more than 9,000 people, which tracked the health of civil servants working in London, found that people who drank over the recommended limits for men and women and also those who have been teetotal in midlife were at an increased risk of the disease.

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'People with a history of heavy drinking who abstain for health reasons and those who under-report their drinking also makes it hard to draw any firm conclusions'.

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

Currently, the United Kingdom guidelines for the consumption of alcohol stand at 14 units per week for both men and women. This being said, earlier consumption may contribute to higher dementia risk, as the illness "involves neuropathological changes over many years, perhaps decades".

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

For instance, too much boozing increases the chance of cancer and liver disease as well as brain damage.

The authors say while the study is important to fill gaps in knowledge, "we should remain cautious and not change current recommendations on alcohol use based exclusively on epidemiological studies".

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