Drinking beer every night can reduce the risk of dementia, say scientists.
Australian researchers studied drinking habits and rates of dementia among 25,000 people over 60 years of age.
The results showed that people who drank the equivalent of two pints a day were a third less likely to suffer from the memory-robbing condition than those who did not.
According to the results, non-drinkers faced the greatest threat. They were about a fifth more likely to have dementia than older adults who had at least three pints a night.
The researchers said their findings show that abstinence from alcohol appears to have no protective benefit against dementia.
However, experts noted that while moderate alcohol consumption can prevent the cruel disorder, excessive alcohol consumption is dangerous.
Australian researchers, who studied drinking habits and dementia rates among 25,000 people over 60, found that two pints a day reduced the risk of memory loss by a third.
How much alcohol is too much?
To keep the health risks of alcohol at a low level, the NHS advises men and women not to regularly drink more than 14 units a week.
One unit of alcohol is 8 g or 10 ml of pure alcohol, which are approximately:
- half a pint of lager/beer/cider below normal strength (ABV 3.6%)
- a single small measure (25ml) of alcohol (25ml, ABV 40%)
A small glass (125 ml, ABV 12%) of wine contains about 1.5 units of alcohol.
But the NHS warns that the risk to your health increases if you drink any amount of alcohol on a regular basis.
Short-term risks include injury, violent behavior and alcohol poisoning.
Long-term risks include heart and liver disease, stroke, as well as liver, bowel, breast and breast cancer.
People who drink up to 14 units a week are advised to spread it evenly over three or more days, rather than drinking alcohol.
Women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant are advised not to drink to reduce the risks to the baby.
With global rates of dementia set to triple over the next 30 years, Dr Louise Mewton and colleagues said it is “fundamental” to reduce risky habits that could be contributing to the rise.
Experts previously estimated that four out of 10 cases of dementia worldwide could be prevented or delayed if risk factors were eliminated.
Obesity is one of the most important risk factors.
The team, from the University of New South Wales, compiled data from 15 older studies.
They contained data on the drinking habits and dementia rates of 24,478 over 60s.
The cohort was divided into abstainers, occasional drinkers (1.3 g of ethanol per day), light to moderate drinkers (1.3 to 25 g per day), moderate to heavy drinkers (25 to 45 g per day), and heavy drinkers (more than 45 g per day). day).
For comparison, a pint of beer contains about 16 grams of ethanol, while a medium-sized glass of wine has about 18 g.
None of the participants, who were followed for up to 40 years, had dementia at the start of the study.
Over the course of the study, 2,124 people were diagnosed with dementia, according to the findings, published in the journal Addiction.
Compared to abstainers, occasional and light to moderate drinkers were 22% less likely to develop the disease.
And those who consumed up to two and a half pints a day had a 38 percent reduced risk of being diagnosed compared to non-drinkers.
Even the heaviest drinkers were 19% less likely to develop dementia than non-drinkers.
When the researchers crunched the numbers further, drinking 40g of ethanol a day, the equivalent of five units, was linked to a lower risk of dementia compared to those who had never had a drink.
Dr Mewton, a public health researcher, said that abstinence from alcohol appears to be associated with an increased risk of being diagnosed with dementia.
Scientists say alcohol in moderate levels can reduce plaque build-up in the brain, which is a telltale sign of the disease.
It could also raise levels of “good” cholesterol, while antioxidant-rich red wine can protect the heart, which also protects against dementia.
The researchers said their data were robust and show the impact of alcohol consumption on dementia rates worldwide.
However, they noted that alcohol intake was self-reported by participants, who are prone to underestimating their consumption.
And the type of alcohol consumed was not recorded. Some studies have found that only certain beverages, such as wine, can protect against dementia.
Meanwhile, the data included few heavy drinkers, who are thought to be at the highest risk of dementia.
UK health chiefs are advising Britons to drink no more than 14 units a week – around six pints of beer or 10 small glasses of wine.
Drinking large amounts of alcohol over many years increases the risk of high blood pressure, stroke, liver disease and some cancers, as well as dementia.
Dr Sara Imarisio, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “The results showed that people who never drank alcohol were more likely to develop dementia than those who did.
“These results are consistent with previous research on this topic, which also shows that high alcohol consumption, in addition to no drinking, appears to be associated with an increased risk of dementia.”
However, he noted that alcohol is toxic to brain cells, so excessive consumption over time can “change the way our brain works,” altering its shape and structure and preventing that the body absorbs the vitamins correctly.
Previous studies have shown that alcohol is a risk factor for dementia, due to the toxic effect of ethanol on the brain.
Studies have even shown that excessive alcohol consumption is a major contributor to dementia, more so than high blood pressure or diabetes.
However, research has also yielded contrary results. Some papers show that heavy drinking is unrelated to the disease, while others found that light to moderate drinkers have a lower risk than non-drinkers.
Global rates of dementia have tripled in the last three decades: from 20.2 million in 1990 to 57.4 million in 2019.
The rise is expected to continue, with experts estimating that 152 million will suffer from the memory-robbing condition by 2050.
As it stands, around 900,000 people are thought to be living with dementia in the UK.
The figure is nearly seven times higher in the US, with 6.2 million affected by the memory-stealing condition.
There is no cure for the disease, meaning doctors can only prescribe drugs that reduce its symptoms.
WHAT IS DEMENTIA? THE KILLER DISEASE THAT STEALS PARTICIPANTS’ MEMORIES
A GLOBAL CONCERN
Dementia is a general term used to describe a range of progressive neurological disorders (those affecting the brain) that affect memory, thinking and behaviour.
There are many different types of dementia, of which Alzheimer’s disease is the most common.
Some people may have a combination of dementia types.
Regardless of which type is diagnosed, each person will experience their dementia in their own unique way.
Dementia is a global concern, but is seen most often in wealthier countries, where people are likely to live to a very old age.
HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE AFFECTED?
The Alzheimer’s Society reports that there are more than 900,000 people living with dementia in the UK today. It is expected to increase to 1.6 million by 2040.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, affecting 50 to 75 percent of people diagnosed.
In the US, there are an estimated 6 million people with Alzheimer’s. A similar percentage increase is expected in the coming years.
As a person’s age increases, so does the risk of developing dementia.
Diagnosis rates are improving, but it is believed that many people with dementia are still undiagnosed.
IS THERE A CURE?
There is currently no cure for dementia.
But new drugs can slow its progression and the earlier it is detected, the more effective the treatments are.
Source: Alzheimer’s Society