Teetotallers, like big drinkers, more prone to dementia

Research suggest abstinence in middle age can increase the risk of dementia

A total of almost 400 dementia cases - with onset occurring, on average, at age 76 - were reported. Researchers traced participants' health records for dementia using the databases of the national hospital episode statistics, the Mental Health Services Data Set, and the mortality register.

This appears to confirm the findings of a variety of reports over time on alcohol consumption, health and life expectancy, which have suggested the evidence is weighted towards what is described as a J model, whereby no alcohol consumption is less beneficial than moderate consumption, but risk rises again with increasingly heavy consumption.

Abstinence from alcohol in middle age has been linked to a heightened risk of dementia, experts have now claimed.

They noted that with every increase of seven units per week there was a significant 17 per cent increase in dementia risk.

The study of 9,000 civil servants found that those that were teetotal had a 45% higher chance of developing the disease when compared with those that drank between one and 14 units of alcohol a week.

Perhaps the most important contribution of the recently published research, however, was the discovery that doing the exact opposite of excessive drinking - abstinence from alcohol consumption in middle-age - is a factor for developing the illness as well.

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The researchers are also careful to say these findings "should not motivate people who do not drink to start drinking" given the detrimental effects alcohol consumption can have on other parts of your health, such as liver disease and cancer.

Dr. Sara Imarisio, from Alzheimer's Research UK, said: "A healthy lifestyle, including cutting down on too much alcohol, can improve health and reduce dementia risk".

Guidance from the United Kingdom chief medical officer states that men and women should drink no more than 14 units of alcohol each week - the equivalent of six pints of average strength beer.

However, the researchers said that this is an observational study, so no firm conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect, and they cannot rule out the possibility that some of the risk may be due to unmeasured factors.

She calls for further studies and ideally a government funded randomized clinical trial to answer pressing questions about the possible protective effects of light to moderate alcohol use on risk of dementia and the mediating role of cardiovascular disease with close monitoring of adverse outcomes.

'The study tells us little about how drinking above low risk guidance beyond the of age of 55 affects the development of dementia.


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