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Drink Away Dementia?
Date:5/1/2009

Study shows one to two drinks daily may lower risk of cognitive decline in older adults

FRIDAY, May 1 (HealthDay News) -- Moderate drinking can lower the risk of dementia in older people, new research shows.

"Amongst cognitively normal adults, one to two alcoholic drinks a day is associated with a 37 percent decreased risk of dementia over six years," said senior study author Dr. Kaycee Sink, an assistant professor of medicine in geriatrics at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine, in Winston-Salem, N.C.

But among those in the study who had mild cognitive impairment to start with, drinking moderately had no effect. And heavier drinking -- two or more a day -- nearly doubled their risk of developing dementia during the six-year follow-up.

Sink presented her findings Thursday at the American Geriatrics Society annual meeting, in Chicago.

Sink, along with study author Dr. Deanna Mangieri, a clinical geriatric fellow at Wake Forest University, and their colleagues looked at 3,069 men and women, average age 79, and followed them for six years.

At the study start, 2,587 were evaluated as cognitively normal; 482 had mild cognitive impairment, which can progress to dementia.

The researchers asked about alcohol intake, smoking, depression, social activity and other factors, and tested the participants' cognitive functioning at the end of the study.

About 38 percent of the participants had one to seven drinks a week, while about 9 percent had eight to 14 drinks a week.

The bottom line, according to Sink: "If you are cognitively normal, there is no reason you should avoid light to moderate use of alcohol, and it may be beneficial. But if you have memory problems, we would probably say any amount of alcohol may be hazardous for your cognitive functioning. If you already have some memory problems, drinking is not going to help prevent progression to dementia, and may ac
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