Is the Public Getting the Wrong Message About Drinking?

Certain Patterns of Alcohol Use Up Risk for Cognitive Decline

by Caroline Casuals

July 26, 2012 (Vancouver, British Columbia) — Despite a body of research and ensuing public health messages suggesting that alcohol consumption can benefit health, including cognition, 2 large studies suggest that particular patterns of drinking may actually increase the risk for cognitive decline in older individuals.

Both studies were presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) 2012.

The first study, conducted by investigators from the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, showed that over an 8-year period, heavy episodic drinking, commonly known as binge drinking, in a large cohort of older adults was associated with up to a 2.5-fold increased risk for cognitive decline and memory loss and that this effect was dose dependent.

“Those who were binge drinkers were much more likely to experience the greatest level of cognitive decline. Those who reported binge drinking once a month or more had an odds ratio of cognitive decline of about 1.5, and for those who reported binge drinking twice a month or more, the odds ratio was about 2.5,” lead investigator Iain A. Lang, PhD, told Medscape Medical News.

In the second study, investigators at the University of California, San Francisco, found that moderate alcohol consumption in a cohort of older women did not protect cognitive function and that switching from nondrinking to drinking status in later life significantly increased the risk for cognitive decline.

“Women who started drinking [in later life] were 3 times more likely to develop cognitive impairment compared to nondrinkers,” study investigator Tina Hoang, MSPH, Veterans Health Research Institute, San Francisco, told conference delegates.

Read the full article here.