A study featured in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry has found surprising new links between memory loss suffered by Alzheimer’s disease patients and alcohol consumption. The article, titled “Alcohol Consumption as a Risk Factor for Dementia and Cognitive Decline: Meta-Analysis of Prospective Studies” describes how the relationships between alcohol consumption, dementia and cognitive decline were investigated in a systematic review that included the combined results of 15 prospective studies.
The study found that in moderate consumers of alcoholic beverages (compared with abstainers), male drinkers reduced their risk for dementia by 45 percent, and women by 27 percent. This information was gathered from 14,646 participants who were evaluated for Alzheimer disease, 10,225 participants evaluated for vascular dementia, and 11,875 who were evaluated for various other kinds of dementia.
The researchers acknowledge that studying the effects of alcohol on dementia is complicated by issues like beverage type, standards of quantity and individual behavior that may interact with alcohol to affect mental acuity. But there is ample evidence from other studies that moderate alcohol consumption can increase HDL, or “good cholesterol,” improve blood flow to the brain and decrease blood coagulation. All three factors may reduce the risk for dementia.
“Our results suggest that alcohol drinkers in late life have reduced risk of dementia,” the authors state, whilst giving warning that the data is “unclear” so far as whether this indicates a protective effect of alcohol consumption throughout adulthood, or merely a benefit of alcohol consumption solely in late life.