Dementia risk higher for middle-aged non-drinkers, study suggests

The research found that those drinking up to four and a half bottles of wine a week were at lower risk of developing the disease than those who abstained

The research found that those drinking up to four and a half bottles of wine a week were at lower risk of developing the disease than those who abstained

She said that it was "intriguing" that abstaining from wine in particular was a cause of "significantly increased risk of dementia" among the study cohort, but also underscored that not all of those in the study group who did not drink alcohol could be described as healthy.

Middle-aged moderate drinkers are significantly less likely to develop dementia than teetotallers, a study has found. "We show that both long-term alcohol abstinence and excessive alcohol consumption may increase the risk of dementia".

A total of almost 400 dementia cases - with onset occurring, on average, at age 76 - were reported.

'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'.

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 research, which began in the mid-1980s, tracked the health of over 9,000 people aged 33 to 55 years over the years since the its inception.

A total of 397 cases of dementia were later identified through hospital and mortality data.

The researchers found that abstinence in midlife or drinking more than 14 units a week was associated with a higher risk of dementia compared with drinking one to 14 units of alcohol a week, said Severine Sabia from UCL and INSERM.

"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.

In abstainers, the researchers show that some of the excess dementia risk was due to a greater risk of cardiometabolic disease.

Dr Sara Imarisio, head of research at Alzheimer's Research UK, added: "As this study only looked at people's drinking in midlife, we don't know about their drinking habits earlier in adulthood, and it is possible that this may contribute to their later life dementia risk".

In the United Kingdom, 14 units of alcohol a week is now the recommended maximum limit for both men and women, but many countries still use a much higher threshold to define harmful drinking. "This study backs what we know, and the temperance movement refuse to accept - that the J shaped curve between alcohol consumption and life expectancy is real". While this study does throw up questions about alcohol and dementia, there could be other risk factors at play.

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

"This study is important since it fills gaps in knowledge, but we should remain cautious and not change current recommendations on alcohol use based exclusively on epidemiological studies", according to the paper.

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