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Moderate alcohol consumption can significantly reduce the risk of dementia

Published:  02 August, 2018

A new report published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) has concluded that moderate consumption of alcohol in midlife significantly reduces the risk of dementia.

The joint UCL and French Inserm study, Alcohol Consumption and the Risk of Dementia, is a based on a follow up study to the 23 year old Whitehall Cohort 2 paper, and compares the effects of abstinence, moderate drinking (up to 14 units a week), and heavy drinking in people aged between 35 and 55 years old.

The study of 9,000 civil servants found that those that were teetotal had a 45% higher chance of developing the disease when compared with those that drank between one and 14 units of alcohol a week.

The effects were also noted well above the recommended government guideline of 14 units a week – at up to the equivalent of four bottles and a half of wine a week.

Above this, though, researchers noted that those that drink heavily risked a 17% rise in risk of developing dementia for every additional 7 units consumed.

This appears to confirm the findings of a variety of reports over time on alcohol consumption, health and life expectancy, which have suggested the evidence is weighted towards what is described as a J model, whereby no alcohol consumption is less beneficial than moderate consumption, but risk rises again with increasingly heavy consumption.

The Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) released a statement to that effect, accusing the temperance movement of wilfully ignoring the ever-growing weight of evidence that moderate alcohol consumption can be life-enhancing.

“It is great to see a piece of research make headlines which backs up the 40 years of evidence on the positive effects of moderate alcohol consumption.

“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.”

In a tweet, the WSTA’s chief executive Miles Beale described the report as “interesting research” that was “useful discussing risk at different levels of consumption”.