Analysis

Can alcohol consumption slow the onset of dementia? - International Scientific Forum on Alcohol Research Critique 233

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The latest study to go under The ISFAR's microscope was designed to assess the association between alcohol consumption and dementia and the roles of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and apolipoproteinEe4 (APOEE4) genotype in modifying this association.

This critique from The ISFAR looks at research into the link between alcohol consumption and dementia

This critique from The ISFAR looks at research into the link between alcohol consumption and dementia

The research was based on data from the Ginkgo Evaluation of Memory Study, conducted from 2000 to 2008 among US community-dwelling participants (which did not demonstrate beneficial effects of ginkgo). A total of 3,021 participants were analysed, all aged 72 years and older and free of dementia at baseline.

The assessment of alcohol consumption included both the amount and frequency of intake. The authors had a very broad assessment of potential confounders, including cardiovascular and other diseases, depression, race, ethnicity, educational level, social activity, medication use and genotype for APOE-E4. There was a very complete and careful attention to the assessment of cognitive function, as subjects underwent numerous and repeated cognitive assessments. If there was any suggestion of cognitive impairment, for example, then cerebral magnetic resonance imaging and referral to an expert panel of clinicians, who reviewed and validated the presence of dementia, was carried out.

No previous studies have had such an extensive assessment of cognition.

The main results include a finding that for the large majority of participants (the 2,548 without mild cognitive impairment at baseline), complete abstention from alcohol was associated with a slightly higher risk of dementia than seen in any of the groups consuming alcohol. For 473 subjects with MCI at baseline, there was no effect on the risk of dementia for up to about ten drinks per week, then a slight but insignificant increase in risk with greater intake.

Daily low-quantity drinking was associated with more than 50% lower dementia risk than infrequent higher alcohol consumption. Many of the associations shown had a consistent pattern (a decrease in risk with light drinking) but did not reach statistical significance. The association was similar for all sub-groups, and was not modified by APOEE4 genotype.

The analysis seems well done, and ISFAR members agreed that, while some of the associations did not reach statistical significance, the data supports most previous studies that show a J-shaped or U-shaped association for the relation of alcohol consumption to the risk of dementia.

As has been shown in most previous studies, regular - even daily - light drinking was found to be preferable to infrequent higher levels of alcohol consumption in terms of the effect on the risk of dementia.

To read the full critique, click here.

These critiques are published with the permission of The International Scientific Forum on Alcohol Research.

Click here for all of the critiques from the International Scientific Forum on Alcohol Research


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