ALCOHOL, DIMENTIA AND THE PROS AND CONS
There’s a fine line between the health benefits and detriments of alcohol consumption and research increasingly shows it really has to do with quantity. As medical concerns such as dementia and Alzheimer’s continue to escalate, the focus is on understanding how and why low to moderate alcohol consumption can serve to protect the brain from deterioration while heavy alcohol can destroy brain function. A review paper by J.W. Kim in psychiatry investigation summarizes the potential ways alcohol may affect cognitive function and the risk of dementia, both adversely and favorably. The variance in outcomes depends on how much alcohol is consumed and the drinking pattern. Using longitudinal and brain imaging studies, researchers have determined that excessive alcohol consumption may increase the risk of cognitive dysfunction and dementia in the elderly. But routine low to moderate alcohol intake may protect against cognitive decline and dementia and provide cardiovascular benefits.
Other studies have found that beneficial effects are seen only among certain subgroups. A recent review of subjects over the age of 65 concluded that light-to-moderate alcohol consumption, in comparison with abstinence, was associated with approximately 35-45 percent lower risk of cognitive decline or dementia. In the current study, the authors state that their intent is to determine if there is an “optimal pattern of drinking” that may protect the elderly against cognitive dysfunction. At present, the way by which the moderate intake of wine and other alcoholic beverages reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases is much better defined than the protective or negative effect of alcohol on the brain. Experts believe further research is needed to evaluate the potential role that alcohol may play in reducing the risk of dementia. As of yet these’s still no “recipe” for the perfect cocktail but hopefully it will come soon.