Good news for a change!
A German study found for people over 65 years old, drinking small amounts of alcohol appears to lower the overall rate of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
Previous research has suggested long-term alcohol abuse is detrimental to memory function. Evidence had indicated alcohol-related dementia accounted for about 10% of all cases.
But the new study indicates light-to-moderate drinking as people age through their senior years may actually help keep their memories intact.
The study interviewed 3,327 patients without dementia and then examined their alcohol consumption and cognitive function at 1 1/2 years and three years.
About 50% of the participants avoided alcohol during the study while the rest drank varying amounts. At the end of the study, 217 (6.8%) of the participants had been diagnosed with dementia -- most of them were non-drinkers.
The study found that the drinkers were 29% less likely to have developed dementia and 42% less likely to have developed Alzheimer's.
The analysis found light-to-moderate alcohol consumption was particularly beneficial for those 75 years old and over.
"The idea that a drop of your favourite tipple could reduce risk of dementia will come as welcome news to many," said Anne Corbett, research manager with the Alzheimer's Society.
But Corbett cautioned against using the study as a "green light to hit the bottle."
Though the study adds to a growing argument alcohol is beneficial for the older population, there remains evidence heavy drinking is linked to an increased risk of dementia, she said.
The researchers suggest the alcohol consumption may be helping by lowering cholesterol and improving insulin sensitivity. Non-alcoholic components in most of the beverages also have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, the study says.
It's not clear if different alcoholic beverages -- such as beer, wine or spirits -- have different outcomes.
The study is published in the journal of Age and Ageing.
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