Moderate alcohol consumption is associated with reduced risk of dementia. That is the conclusion of a recent meta-analysis that was published in the scientific journal European Journal of Epidemiology.

Dementia
Chinese researchers1 analysed the relationship between alcohol consumption and dementia in 10 international studies. They conclude that the relationship is J-shaped: moderate alcohol consumption (≤12.5 g/day) decreases the dementia risk, but heavy alcohol consumption (>38 g/day) increases the risk. Alcohol consumption of 6 g/day is associated with the lowest risk. Furthermore, the meta-analysis indicated that the effect of alcohol consumption may be greater in younger adults (<60 years old).

Beer, wine, and liquor
In addition, the researchers studied the effects of specific alcoholic beverages. It appeared that particularly wine had a protective effect. However, limited studies were available for this sub-analysis. Despite evidence suggesting that beer – and not wine of liquor –  protects against plaques in the brain2 (a symptom of Alzheimer’s disease), the current analysis does not find a protective effect of beer. This may be explained by substantial differences between studies in terms of study design and study population. This makes it hard to compare the studies. More research on effects of specific beverages is required.

In perspective
The current meta-analysis is in line with the previous meta-analysis on alcohol and dementia3. In contrast to previous research, the current meta-analysis is able to estimate the risk per alcohol consumption level (a so-called dose-response analysis). In addition, the researchers compared the effect of 12.5 g alcohol/day on other diseases, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. They identified that consuming 12.5 g alcohol/day is still protective for all diseases above, except for (certain) types of cancer.

References:

  1. Xu, W., Wang, H., Wan, Y. et al. Alcohol consumption and dementia risk: a dose–response meta-analysis of prospective studies Eur J Epidemiol (2017). doi:10.1007/s10654-017-0225-3
  2. Kok EH, Karppinen TT, Luoto T, Alafuzoff I, Karhunen PJ. Beer drinking associates with lower burden of amyloid beta aggregation in the brain: Helsinki sudden death series. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2016;40(7):1473–8.
  3. Anstey KJ, Mack HA, Cherbuin N, Alcohol consumption as a risk factor for dementia and cognitive decline: meta-analysis of prospective studies, Am J Geriatr, 2009, Jul;17(7):542-55

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