Alcohol consumption not directly linked to cognitive impairment in old men

By Krittika Sengupta, Parent Herald February 21, 04:07 pm

Alcohol consumption does not lead to cognitive impairment in older men, according to a new study by researchers at The University of Western Australia.

Cognitive impairment is a condition in which the processing speed of the brain and one's memory declines, and is associated with health risks like dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

"Heavy alcohol consumption is known to be detrimental to health, so these results were counter intuitive," Osvaldo Almeida, research director at The University of Western Australia's Center for Health and Aging, said in a press release.

The researchers recruited 3,542 men between the ages of 65 and 83 years for their study and analyzed their genetic data, employing the Mendelian randomization method, which incorporates genetic information into traditional epidemiologic methods.

The participants were also surveyed regarding their alcohol consumption during the last year. Based on their drinking habits (number of standard drinks every week), they were classified as abstainers, occasional drinkers or regular drinkers, with consumption of more than 35 drinks every week considered alcohol abuse. Finally, the scientists determined who had a gene tied to a person's alcohol tolerance.

The participants were then assessed six years later, at which point the researchers looked for a correlation between alcohol consumption and cognitive impairment.

"Professor Almeida said that if heavy alcohol use is a direct cause of cognitive impairment, then people with the genetic variant that makes them avoid alcohol should have lower risk of cognitive impairment later in life," The University of Western Australia wrote. "However, that was not the case."

What's more, according to the researchers: "Our results are consistent with the possibility, but do not prove, that regular moderate drinking decreases the risk of cognitive impairment in older men."

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