Study of civil servants finds middle-aged non-drinkers face higher dementia risk

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Researchers say it's almost impossible to definitively determine the effect of alcohol consumption - as it would require a trial in which participants would have to stop drinking or start drinking heavily.

The researchers found that abstinence in midlife or drinking more than 14 units a week was associated with a higher risk of dementia compared with drinking one to 14 units of alcohol a week, said Severine Sabia from UCL and INSERM.

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

The findings are based on a 1985 study involving 9,087 British civil servants aged between 35 and 55. In fact, researchers found those who abstain from alcohol are 45 percent more likely to develop dementia than those who drink about half a bottle of wine per week.

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But the startling results are robust, and should prompt government-funded trials to assess "the possible protective effect of light-to-moderate alcohol use on risk of dementia", commented Sevil Yasar, an associate professor at the John Hopkins School of Medicine who was not involved in the study.

In abstainers, the researchers show that some of the excess dementia risk was due to a greater risk of cardiometabolic disease.

"People who completely abstain from alcohol may have a history of heavy drinking and this can make it hard to interpret the links between drinking and health".

A total of almost 400 dementia cases - with onset occurring, on average, at age 76 - were reported. They noted that with every seven-unit/week increase there was a significant 17 per cent increase in dementia risk.

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Dr Sara Imarisio, head of research at Alzheimer's Reearch UK, said that the study failed to take into account the persons drinking habits earlier in life.

Dr Tony Rao, an old age psychiatrist and member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists" Addictions Faculty, said: "These results should be interpreted with a high degree of caution. The present study encourages the use of a lower threshold of alcohol consumption in such guidelines, applicable over the adult life course, in order to promote cognitive health.

As laid out by their National Alcohol Diary Survey (2014), 54% of 18 to 75-year-old drinkers were classified as "harmful drinkers", equating to 1.35 million harmful drinkers in Ireland.

"Not only does moderate, sensible consumption of alcohol reduce the incidence of dementia compared to teetotallers, there is evidence it also has beneficial effects in guarding against type II diabetes, heart disease, stroke, macular degeneration and many other conditions".

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