Alcohol and Alzheimer's Disease
The Benefits and the Dangers
• A recent study examined millions of individuals to determine if there was a link between Alzheimer's disease and alcohol consumption.
• The study found that while moderate consumption was actually linked to a slight decrease in Alzheimer's disease, regular over-consumption of alcohol increases the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease by 300%.
• In this article we discuss the study and its findings, clarify what is considered moderate consumption and over-consumption, and suggest a course of action for social drinkers.
Recent research has shown an interesting relationship between alcohol and Alzheimer’s disease. Moderate drinking has been shown to reduce one’s chance of developing Alzheimer’s, while regular heavy drinking can increase your chances of developing Alzheimer’s by three hundred percent!
The Benefits of Alcohol
A study published in the journal of Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment states that consuming one or two alcoholic drinks per day can lower your risk of Alzheimer’s disease. This research joins a growing body of work suggesting that moderate drinking may have positive mental effects.
The study looked at data collected from more than 365,000 participants around the world. They found that moderate drinkers, defined as no more than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women, were 23 percent less likely to show signs of serious memory problems or to develop Alzheimer’s disease when compared to non-drinkers.
Researchers also found that drinking wine had more mental benefits than consuming other types of alcohol. Researchers aren’t completely sure how to explain these benefits. Some point to the anti-inflammatory features of alcohol while others suggest that these positive effects are actually due to the social interactions which occur while the alcohol is being consumed. Having an active social life has shown to help ward off Alzheimer’s disease.
Regardless of why the benefit exists, the authors conclude that “there is substantial evidence that light to moderate drinking, particularly of wine, reduces the risk of dementia and cognitive impairment.”
The Dangers of Alcohol
As pleasant as it is to hear that sharing a drink with a friend can decrease your chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease, we need to acknowledge the significant dangers of regularly over-consuming alcohol. Over-consumption is defined as consuming 4 drinks for men and 3 drinks for women in a single day.
A recent study examined more than thirty-million Europeans to identify the largest factors determining whether an individual develops Alzheimer’s or dementia. The study found that alcohol was the largest non-genetic risk factor for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
The researchers were shocked at how significantly alcohol contributed. “We hypothesized that alcohol would play some role, but I don’t think anyone expected the size of the effect to be so large,” said lead author Dr. Jürgen Rehm.
The study found that individuals who regularly over-consumed were three times more likely to develop a dementia as those who did not. Over-consumption of alcohol was especially common in study participants diagnosed with early-onset dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Early-onset is defined as being diagnosed before the age of 65.
While frequently drinking to excess has been known to have a wide range of negative, this new research shows that the damage caused by alcohol is much more common and much more severe than previously imagined.
If you’re not a drinker, the experts don’t advise starting now. Experts believe the possibility of an inexperienced drinker drinking to excess outweighs the potential benefits.
Current drinkers can happily continue with the knowledge that light to moderate drinking has been shown to have mental benefits.
Heavy drinkers and their family members should be aware that they are seriously jeopardizing their mental health.
A concise introduction to Alzheimer's, what causes it, and how to prevent and treat it.