Low to moderate drinking was defined as less than eight drinks per week for women and less than 15 drinks per week for men.
The results support previous research that found that generally one drink per day for women and two per day for men – which is the guide of the United States – seems to offer some cognitive benefits.
“There is now a lot of observational evidence showing that light to moderate alcohol consumption is associated with better cognitive function and a lower risk of dementia than abstention from alcohol,”
“What we do know for sure is that drinking too much alcohol definitely damages the brain in a major way. What is less clear is whether low to moderate intake can be protective in some people or whether total abstinence is the best advice. , “said neurologist Dr. Richard Isaacson, founder of the Alzheimer Prevention Clinic at the NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medical Center.
“Based on conflicting studies, at the moment I don’t think we can know for sure if anyone against low to moderate consumption is the best in every single person,” said Isaacson, who was not involved in any of the studies.
Not protective for African Americans
The study participants, who were predominantly white, female and with an average age of 62, underwent cognitive tests from 1996 until 2008 and were examined every two years for approximately nine years.
Compared to those who claimed never to have drunk, low to moderate consumption was associated with significantly higher cognitive scores for mental state, word recall and vocabulary over time, as well as lower rates of decline in each of these areas.
Interestingly, the new study did not find the cognitive benefit valid for African Americans.
“Few studies have evaluated whether the effects are similar in different racial or ethnic groups,” said Anstey. “This [finding] it increases the possibility that ethnic groups may vary in their vulnerability to the cognitive effects of alcohol. “
“This may make sense because of the increased likelihood of medical comorbidities such as diabetes in blacks,” said Isaacson.
However, Anstey warned, there are some basic factors to consider before defaulting on any conclusion that drinking varies by race.
“Alcohol consumption patterns are associated with socioeconomic status and other cultural factors,” he said. “It is very difficult to untangle the biological from the social mechanisms at stake here.”
In the end, this new study doesn’t change what many doctors already recommend, experts say.
“In my clinical practice, I look at the totality of the evidence and then identify the recommendations for the person being treated,” said Isaacson.
For women, a general maximum goal is around 4-6 drinks per week in her Alzheimer’s prevention clinic, she said. In men who would have 10-12 servings per week.
“But this isn’t a one-size-fits-all option,” added Isaacson. “These decisions should be adapted based on body weight, for example, and also modified based on whether the person has a history of alcohol or substance abuse.
“Also, it’s not just about” what and how much “alcohol, it’s also important to consider” when and how “alcohol is consumed, Isaacson said.
For example, drinking a glass of wine with an early dinner is “more sensible than two late-night glasses on an empty stomach near bedtime,” he said.
“Alcohol tends to worsen overall quality sleep before going to bed, which also affects the risk of dementia,” he added.
“I believe that for those who drink alcohol, they should follow national guidelines as a guide for maximum safe consumption,” Anstey said, adding that this does not apply to anyone with a health condition that requires abstinence from alcohol.
And if you’re not a drinker, don’t start, he said.
“Drinking alcohol, for example, increases the risk of some cancers. If one doesn’t drink, then we don’t recommend taking alcohol.”