A Drink of Alcohol Daily May Delay Dementia

In people with mild cognitive impairment, consuming a drink of alcohol a day, and even less, may slow their progression to dementia, according to a recent research study published in Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology. Mild cognitive impairment is a transitional stage between normal aging and dementia that is used to classify people with mild memory or cognitive problems and no significant disability.

Researchers evaluated alcohol consumption and the incidence of mild cognitive impairment in 1,445 people. They then followed 121 people with mild cognitive impairment and their progression to dementia. The participants, age 65 to 84, were part of the Italian Longitudinal Study on Aging and were followed for three-and-a-half years.
The study found people with mild cognitive impairment who had up to one drink of alcohol a day developed dementia at an 85 percent slower rate than people with mild cognitive impairment who were teetotalers (abstainers or non-drinkers).

"While many studies have assessed alcohol consumption and cognitive function in the elderly, this is the first study to look at how alcohol consumption affects the rate of progression of mild cognitive impairment to dementia," said study authors Vincenzo Solfrizzi, M.D., Ph.D., and Francesco Panza, M.D., Ph.D., of the Department of Geriatrics at the University of Bari, in Bari, Italy.

The study did not find any association between higher levels of drinking, more than one drink per day, and the rate of progression to dementia in people with mild cognitive impairment compared to non-drinkers.

The  research was supported by the Italian Longitudinal Study on Aging and by AFORIGE, an Italian association for aging research.

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References:

  • American Academy of Neurology. A Drink a Day May Delay Dementia. Press release, May 21, 2007;
  • Solfrizzi, Vencenzo et al. Alcohol consumption, mild cognitive impairment, and progression to dementia. Neurology, 2007, 68(2)

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