Moderate to Heavy Drinkers More Likely to Reach 85 Without Dementia, Study Claims

Drinking several glasses of wine a day may be good for your health, according to a new study by the University of California San Diego School of Medicine. Older adult men who are moderate to heavy drinkers have a better chance of reaching age 85 without getting dementia or experiencing other cognitive problems.

The study found that when compared to non-drinkers, men and women aged 85 and older who drank “moderate to heavy” amounts of alcohol between five and seven days a week were twice as likely to be cognitively healthy. Moderate drinking is defined as consuming up to two alcoholic beverages a day for adult men under the age of 65 or up to one drink a day for men aged 65 and older. Heavy drinkers are men under 65 who consume four drinks a day or men over age 65 who have up to three alcoholic beverages per day. Anything more than that is considered excessive drinking.

Senior author Linda McEvoy, PhD, an associate professor at UC San Diego School of Medicine, commented: “This study is unique because we considered men and women’s cognitive health at late age and found that alcohol consumption is not only associated with reduced mortality, but with greater chances of remaining cognitively healthy into older age.”

During the 29-year study, researchers examined participants’ cognitive health using a standard dementia screening test. McEvoy pointed out that few people in the study drank excessively, so the results did not show the effects of binge-type drinking. Alcohol-related dementia has been linked to long-term excessive drinkers.

More than 99 percent of the study participants were Caucasian from a middle-to-upper-middle-class area in San Diego County. The majority of those surveyed had some kind of college education and participated from 1984 to 2013.

While the results are promising, it doesn’t mean everyone should start drinking more alcoholic beverages. Lead author Erin Richard, a graduate student in the Joint San Diego State University/UC San Diego Doctoral Program in Public Health, noted: “This study shows that moderate drinking may be part of a healthy lifestyle to maintain cognitive fitness in aging. However, it is not a recommendation for everyone to drink. Some people have health problems that are made worse by alcohol, and others cannot limit their drinking to only a glass or two per day. For these people, drinking can have negative consequences.”

The results were published in August’s Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

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