Does Alcohol Reduce Dementia Risk

We’ve often seen studies that suggest moderate alcohol intake can actually be good for you. The problem is that these studies are often fairly small and then will be seized on by the media to splash across their front pages.

After all it’s we like headlines like this –  alcohol makes you live longer, donuts cure cancer, lack of exercise promotes a healthy brain and that sort of thing.   Yet underlying much of these studies are lots of caveats that when you read them pretty much destroy the beneficial conclusions.

Yet there has been enough positive signs about one of the scourges of modern living – alcohol, that perhaps there are really some benefits after all.  This latest study which has spanned three decades found that even heavy drinkers are more likely to reach old age without dementia that those who are teetotal.

The study was from the University of California and tracked over 1000 middle class men and women and their alcohol intake.   The participants had their cognitive health checked every four years, during the study using a standard dementia screening test.

The study was the first to consider people’s cognitive health later in age and they found that not only did those who drank moderately live longer, they also had a much higher chance of avoiding mental illnesses like dementia.

Unfortunately if you think that is too good to be true and there must be a catch – well there is.  If you drink too much alcohol, you actually put yourself at risk of developing alcohol related dementia.   So in effect you have to be careful that in avoiding one risk you don’t put yourself in a higher risk of something similar.

It’s becoming evident that alcohol can give lots of benefits to people especially in old age, yet if you stray over the line then those benefits disappear very quickly.  It is why some people are  trying to encourage the new strain of alcohol treatments which don’t stop drinking but merely encourage moderation.

One of these methods is called The Sinclair Method which is a relatively new treatment for those with alcohol problems.  The idea is that using a drug called Nalmefene, you can actually block the pleasurable endorphins released into the brain when we drink.  The idea is that this discourages excessive drinking by creating the buzz that alcoholics end up searching for.

The drug has been approved by various countries including the UK’s National Institute for Health care Excellence which has approved the drug under the brand name Selincro which is now available by prescriptions in the UK.   It has been seen in clinical studies to not only be highly effective in treating heavy drinkers, but also encourage sensible drinking in moderation.   Which if the Californian study is to be believed will have extra benefits to all concerned.

It should be remembered that with any study you should also consider what wasn’t included.  So before you start guzzling from that wine bottle consider that out of all the participants there were virtually no heavy drinkers.  This means that there was no way of assessing what damage might be done to individuals who did drink too much including their cognitive health.

Further Reading/Citations

National Institute for Health care Excellence  – https://www.nice.org.uk/

Articles on social, medical and political issues –  http://cipec.org/