AAIC: Drinking Patterns Linked to Impaired Cognition

Two studies show increased risk for drinking early and late in life, and for binge drinking in elderly

WEDNESDAY, July 18 (HealthDay News) -- Moderate drinking (seven to 14 drinks per week) early or late in life and binge drinking twice per month or more among older adults seem to correlate with cognitive decline, according to two studies presented at the annual Alzheimer's Association International Conference, held from July 14 to 19 in Vancouver, Canada.

Tina Hoang, M.S.P.H., from NCIRE in San Francisco, and colleagues followed 1,306 women aged 65 years and older enrolled in a prospective cohort study to assess patterns of alcohol consumption and their effect on cognitive impairment over a 20-year period. The researchers found that women who reported drinking more in the past than at baseline had an increased risk of developing cognitive impairment (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 1.30). Compared with nondrinkers, moderate drinkers in the late phase (years 10 and 16) also had an increased risk of cognitive impairment (aOR, 1.62), as did women who transitioned from nondrinking to drinking during follow-up (aOR, 3.07).

In an effort to assess the effects of binge drinking on cognitive decline, Iain Lang, Ph.D., from Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry in Exeter, U.K., and colleagues conducted a secondary analysis of data from 5,075 participants aged 65 years and older in the Health and Retirement Study. Participants who reported heavy episodic drinking once per month or more had an odds ratio of 1.62 (95 percent confidence interval [CI], 0.99 to 2.65) and 1.27 (95 percent CI, 0.71 to 2.28) for being in the group experiencing the greatest 10 percent of decline in cognitive function and memory, respectively. The odds ratios were 2.47 and 2.49, respectively, for those reporting heavy episodic drinking twice a month or more.

"The many dangers of misuse of alcohol, and some of its possible benefits, have been widely reported, and there needs to be further clarification by the scientific community," William Thies, Ph.D., the chief medical and scientific officer of the Alzheimer's Association, said in a statement. "Certainly no one should start drinking in order to reduce Alzheimer's risk, as these two new reports attest."

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