Heavy Drinking Speeds Memory Loss
A British study published in the January 15th edition of Neurology shows that men who drink heavily start to show the memory loss of people six years senior. This is not good news for those who drink more than 36g of alcohol, that’s about two and a half units a day.
The study, carried out by scientists at University College London, looked at 5,054 men and 2,099 women from the Whitehall II cohort study with an average age of 56. They tested their memory and executive functioning (goal directed activities, abilty to problem solve, reason and plan). Their alcohol consumption had previously been assessed three times prior to the first cognitive assessment. In the next ten years cognitive tests were repeated, in 2002–2004 and between 2007-2009. The researchers, led by Severine Sabia of the epidemiology and public health department, found that the men who were heavy drinkers began to suffer memory loss problems 18 months and six years earlier than those who drank more moderately. They were unable to say if women were affected in the same way because there were not enough of them in the sample who were heavy drinkers.
Although there have been many pieces of research into the long-term effects of alcohol on the brain the studies have mostly looked at elderly people who used to drink a lot and had reduced their intake or stopped drinking altogether. This study highlights our risk factors for memory difficulties that are preventable. The fact is that memory decline can be a precusor to dementia. Alcohol is causing major health problems in the United States and in many countries throughout the world.
Although excessive alcohol consumption in men was found to be associated with faster cognitive decline, compared with light to moderate alcohol consumption in this study there is evidence that some alcohol can be good for us. We know light-to-moderate consumption lessens the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke. The compound resveratrol, found in red wine, has been widely promoted as an effective anti-oxidant and good for the heart and brain. Resveratrol is found in the skin of red grapes and several studies have linked moderate consumption of red wine with a lower incidence of Alzheimer's disease. Moderation is the keyword.
More on alcohol and Dementia
Alcohol consumption and cognitive decline in early old age.
Séverine Sabia, PhD, et al. Published online before print January 15, 2014, doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000000063 Neurology 10.1212