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Moderate drinking may help Alzheimers patients

Published:  11 December, 2015

Moderate daily alcohol consumption prolongs life for people suffering from Alzheimers disease, a new study has suggested.

Those who drank two or three units of alcohol on a daily basis are significantly less likely to die than those who were either teetotal or who consumed four or more units daily.

The study, which was conducted by scientists at the University of Copenhagen and has been reported in the British Medical Journal Open, did not distinguish between different kinds of alcohol consumed.

The research followed 321 patients with early-stage Alzheimers over a three year period.

Of the cohort, 7% were teetotal, 71% occasional drinkers - defined as one or less units of alcohol daily, 17% were moderate drinkers and 4% drank more than four units a day.

During the research process, 53 - or 16% - of the patients died.

The researchers noted that other factors may have contributed to the apparently beneficial effects of alcohol. In particular, such drinking may be evidence of a richer social environment, they suggested, which is known to impact positively on quality of life and perhaps mortality.

Some 850,000 people in the UK are affected by Alzheimers, which is the most common cause of dementia.

There are perhaps 30 million suffering from various degrees of dementia worldwide.

Further studies are needed, the research concludes, to confirm the beneficial effects of alcohol on those with dementia.

"We cannot, solely on the basis of this study, either encourage or advise against moderate alcohol consumption in patients with Alzheimers," they said.

Dr Laura Phipps, of Alzheimer's Research UK, said: "While these kinds of studies are useful in highlighting trends, it's difficult to tease apart cause and correlation, and factors such as general health, medication and previous drinking habits could also have an impact.

"The effect of low or moderate alcohol intake on the brain is still being understood and current research is not conclusive as to how it may affect cognitive decline or dementia."