Researcher’s claim drinking beer reduces risk of dementia

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Drinking beer every night may lower your risk of dementia, scientists claim.

Australian researchers studied the drinking habits and dementia rates among 25,000 over-60s.

Results showed people who drank the equivalent of two pints a day were a third less likely to get the memory-robbing condition than teetotalers.

Non-drinkers faced the highest threat, according to the results. They were roughly a fifth more likely to be struck down with dementia than the biggest boozers, who got through at least three pints a night.

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The researchers said their findings show that abstaining from alcohol seems to carry no protective benefits against dementia.

However, experts noted that while moderate alcohol consumption may stave off the cruel disorder, excessive drinking is dangerous.

With global dementia rates set to triple over the next 30 years, Dr Louise Mewton and colleagues said it is ‘fundamental’ to scale back on the risky habits that could contribute to the rise.

Experts previously estimated that four in 10 dementia cases worldwide could be prevented or delayed if risk factors were eliminated.

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Obesity is one of the biggest risk factors.

The team, from the University of New South Wales, gathered data from 15 old studies.

They contained data on the alcohol drinking habits and dementia rates of 24,478 over-60s.

The cohort was divided into teetotalers, occasional drinkers (1.3g of ethanol per day), light to moderate drinkers (1.3g to 25g per day), moderate to heavy drinkers (25g to 45g per day) and heavy drinkers (more than 45g per day).

For comparison, one pint of beer contains around 16 grams of ethanol, while a medium-sized glass of wine has around 18g.

None of the participants — who were followed for up to 40 years — had dementia at the start of the study.

Over the course of the study, 2,124 people were diagnosed with dementia, according to the findings, published in the journal Addiction.

When compared to teetotalers, occasional and light to moderate drinkers were 22 per cent less likely to develop the condition.

And those who consumed up to two-and-a-half pints a day had a 38 per cent reduced risk of being diagnosed compared to non-drinkers.

Even the biggest drinkers were 19 per cent less likely to be dementia sufferers than those who didn’t consume alcohol.

When the researchers further crunched the numbers, drinking 40g of ethanol per day — the equivalent to five units — was linked with a lower risk of dementia compared to those who had never had a tipple.

Dr Mewton, a public health researcher, said abstaining from alcohol appears to be associated with a higher risk of being diagnosed with dementia.

Scientists say alcohol in moderate levels may reduce the build-up of plaque in the brain, which is a telltale sign of the illness.

It could also boost levels of ‘good’ cholesterol, while antioxidant-rich red wine may protect the heart — which both in turn protect against dementia.

The researchers said their data was robust and shows the impact of alcohol drinking on dementia rates worldwide.

However, they noted that alcohol intake was self-reported by participants — who are prone to underestimate their drinking.

And the type of alcohol consumed was not logged. Some studies have found that only certain drinks — such as wine — may protect against dementia.

Meanwhile, the data included a few excessive alcohol drinkers, who are thought to be at most risk from dementia.

UK health chiefs advise Britons to drink no more than 14 units per week — around six pints of beer or 10 small glasses of wine.

Drinking large amounts of alcohol for many years raises the risk of high blood pressure, strokes, liver disease, and some cancers, as well as dementia.

Dr. Sara Imarisio, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: ‘The results showed that people who never drank alcohol had a higher chance of developing dementia than those who did.

‘These results are consistent with previous research on this topic, which also shows that heavy consumption of alcohol, as well as not drinking, seems linked to a higher risk of dementia.’

However, she noted that alcohol is toxic to brain cells, so excessive drinking over time can ‘change the way our brains work’, alter its shape and structure and stop the body from absorbing vitamins properly.

Previous studies have highlighted that alcohol is a risk factor for dementia, due to the toxic effect of ethanol on the brain.

Studies have even shown that excessive drinking is one of the biggest contributors to dementia, more so than high blood pressure or diabetes.

However, research has also thrown up contrary results. Some papers show heavy drinking is not linked to the condition, while others found light to moderate drinkers has a lower risk than teetotalers.

Global dementia rates have tripled over the last three decades — from 20.2million in 1990 to 57.4million in 2019.

The surge is predicted to continue — with experts estimating 152million will be suffering from the memory-robbing condition by 2050.

As it stands, around 900,000 people are thought to be living with dementia in the UK.

The figure is nearly seven times higher in the US, with 6.2million blighted by the memory-robbing condition.

There is no cure for the disease, meaning doctors can only prescribe drugs that lessen its symptoms.