Amount of alcohol consumed tied to dementia risk in older adults
The amount of alcohol older adults consume affects their risk for dementia differently depending on whether they have mild cognitive impairment, according to a study published in JAMA Network Open.
“Our findings provide some reassurance that alcohol consumed within recommended limits was not associated with an elevated risk of dementia among older adults with normal cognition,” Manja Koch, PhD, lead author of the study and a research associate in the department of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told Healio Primary Care.
“Nevertheless, physicians should provide individualized risk assessments when counseling patients about alcohol intake,” she continued.
Researchers conducted a follow-up analysis of the Gingko Evaluation Memory Study, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial that included adults aged at least 72 years who did not have dementia at enrollment.
Participants reported how often and what they drank at baseline and underwent cognitive and functional testing at baseline and every 6 months until the end of follow-up.
A total of 3,021 adults with a median age of 78 years were included in the study. Within the cohort, 473 patients had mild cognitive impairment at baseline and 2,548 did not.
Patients who drank 7.1 to 14 alcoholic drinks per week had a lower risk for dementia compared with those who drank less than one drink per week. This occurred in both patients with (HR = 0.93; 95% CI, 0.47-1.84) and without (HR = 0.63; 95% CI, 0.38-1.06) mild cognitive impairment.
In patients with mild cognitive impairment, the risk for dementia increased when they consumed more than 14 drinks each week (HR = 1.72; 95% CI, 0.87-3.4) compared with less than one drink per week.
Researchers found that among those without mild cognitive impairment, drinking less than the recommended amount of alcohol daily was tied to a lower risk for dementia (HR = 0.45; 95% CI, 0.23-0.89) compared with those who did not drink daily, but drank excessively when they did.
Completely abstaining from alcohol among those without mild cognitive impairment, and consuming more than 14 alcoholic drinks each week among those with mild cognitive impairment, were associated with lower scores on a dementia screening test, the researchers said.
“Our results suggest that physicians caring for older adults need to carefully assess the full dimensions of drinking behavior and cognition when providing guidance to patients about their alcohol consumption and about preserving their cognitive function,” study researcher Majken K. Jensen, PhD, an associate professor of nutrition in the department of nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told Healio Primary Care. – by Erin Michael
Disclosures: Jensen and Koch report no relevant financial disclosures. Please see study for all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.