Drinking four small glasses of wine a week may increase risk of developing dementia, study suggests

Drinking just four small glasses of wine a week may increase your risk of developing dementia, new study suggests

  • Researchers analyzed more than 15,000 people aged 50 and older for two years
  • UK study linked ‘risky’ drinking to greater short-term memory decline
  • Those who had eight units or more per week also saw a decrease in spatial awareness



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Drinking just four pints of beer or small glasses of wine a week increases dementia risk, a study suggests.

Researchers have warned that it cuts the risk of short-term memory and spatial awareness – how we perceive the space around our bodies – by half.

They said if they didn’t cut back on safe drinking limits, these problems could lead to dementia.

The level of four pints – eight units – is comparable to the NHS advice to drink a maximum of 14 units per week.

Scientists analyzed data from more than 15,000 people aged 50 and older and followed them for two years.

Their alcohol consumption, including amount and frequency, was assessed and they took tests to measure thinking skills.

Researchers from King's College London analyzed data from more than 15,000 people aged 50 and over and followed them for two years (stock image)

Researchers from King’s College London analyzed data from more than 15,000 people aged 50 and over and followed them for two years (stock image)

Dementia and Alzheimer's were the leading killer in England in October, according to data released yesterday from the Office for National Statistics

Dementia and Alzheimer's were the leading killer in England in October, according to data released yesterday from the Office for National Statistics

Dementia and Alzheimer’s were the leading killer in England in October, according to data released yesterday from the Office for National Statistics

Global cases of dementia will nearly triple from 57.4 million to 152.8 million by 2050, according to a study by the University of Washington School of Medicine.  But the rate at which the disease is expected to progress varies between different parts of the world.  In Western Europe, cases are expected to increase by just 75 percent, mainly due to an aging population, while they are expected to double in North America.  The largest increase is expected to be seen in North Africa and the Middle East, where the number of cases is expected to increase by 375 percent.

Global cases of dementia will nearly triple from 57.4 million to 152.8 million by 2050, according to a study by the University of Washington School of Medicine.  But the rate at which the disease is expected to progress varies between different parts of the world.  In Western Europe, cases are expected to increase by just 75 percent, mainly due to an aging population, while they are expected to double in North America.  The largest increase is expected to be seen in North Africa and the Middle East, where the number of cases is expected to increase by 375 percent.

Global cases of dementia will nearly triple from 57.4 million to 152.8 million by 2050, according to a study by the University of Washington School of Medicine. But the rate at which the disease is expected to progress varies between different parts of the world. In Western Europe, cases are expected to increase by just 75 percent, mainly due to an aging population, while they are expected to double in North America. The largest increase is expected to be seen in North Africa and the Middle East, where the number of cases is expected to increase by 375 percent.

How heavy drinking can increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease?

Binge drinking could increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, according to research.

Drinking a lot of alcohol reduces the brain’s ability to repair itself and clear plaques that build up to cause Alzheimer’s disease, the leading cause of dementia.

It damages the genes that control housekeeping cells in the brain, scientists say, and the finding adds to other research linking drinking and dementia.

Plaques – clumps of protein – called amyloid beta are known to be a cause of brain degeneration in Alzheimer’s patients.

In healthy brains, the body’s own cells can remove the amyloid beta, but alcohol reduces the ability to do this, according to research from the University of Illinois.

These plaques destroy nerve cells, causing memory loss and confusion, scientists say.

They are usually broken down by cells called microglia, which engulf and destroy the proteins in a process called phagocytosis.

Microglia have been described as the “gardeners” of the brain because they eradicate infection and damage.

However, researchers found that they don’t work as well when cells become inflamed, which can be caused by heavy alcohol consumption.

The people who drank “risky levels” — equivalent to eight units a week — suffered greater declines in short-term memory and spatial awareness.

Just a small additional worsening of the mental disorder could take a person past the clinical threshold for dementia.

dr. Tony Rao, a psychiatrist who led the study at King’s College London, said: “With a career spanning more than 20 years devoted to researching alcohol and older people, this is certainly the most groundbreaking study on the relationship between drinking and risk of dementia.

‘None of the participants had dementia at the start of the study, but those who drank at risky levels were more likely to experience cognitive decline, which is likely to progress to dementia.

‘Scoring above the limit for risky drinking does not only apply to heavy or binge drinkers.

‘It is possible, for example’ [to be above the threshold] even if someone drinks two units of alcohol four times a week – the equivalent of a pint of beer or a small glass of wine.

“This may seem surprising and dispel the myth that alcohol is somehow good for the brain.”

He added: ‘Using tests to detect this cognitive impairment early can protect the brain and prevent further deterioration into dementia.

‘With alcohol consumption, this is completely preventable if the people identified early with these tests reduce or abstain. It has the potential to improve public health.’

dr. Rosa Sancho, from Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: ‘These findings give even more weight to advice for people to drink within recommended guidelines.’

The NHS advises men and women to regularly drink no more than 14 units per week.

This is equal to six pints of 4 percent beer, six small glasses of 13.4 percent wine, or seven double measures of 40 percent spirits.

dr. Sancho said, “Taking steps to curb the amount of alcohol you consume can have far-reaching health benefits and is not limited to improving brain health.”

The research results have been published in the journal Aging and Mental Health.

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