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Drinking up to two cans of beer or glasses of wine a day may lower your risk of suffering from dementia, a major study suggests.

Researchers in South Korea analyzed health data from four million people in the country who were tracked for up to eight years.

Those who had one can of beer or glass of wine a day had a 21 percent lower risk of dementia compared to nondrinkers, while those who had two daily drinks had a 17 percent lower risk. But anyone consuming alcohol in higher amounts — three or more drinks a day — had an eight percent higher risk.

The researchers suggested alcohol in lower amounts can protect against dementia because it reduces inflammation in the brain and blood thickness, allowing blood to flow better.

But the study could not conclusively prove that alcohol was triggering the reduction in risk of dementia, rather than another factor like diet or genetics. It also relied on participants self-reporting how often they consumed alcohol. 

A study has suggested that drinking two glasses of wine or having two cans of beer a day can protect against dementia

A study has suggested that drinking two glasses of wine or having two cans of beer a day can protect against dementia

The authors pointed out that the downsides of alcohol outweigh any small benefits.

Previous studies have warned that drinking alcohol can raise the risk of cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure and weaken the immune system. 

It comes after Canadian authorities insisted people should not drink more than two bottles of beer or glasses of wine a week, prompting some experts to blast them as ‘useless’ and eroding trust in public health officials. 

The CDC says that women should not consume more than one drink per day and that men should drink less than two per day.

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In the latest study — published today in JAMA Network Open —  researchers looked at the health records of healthy adults in South Korea.

Data was extracted from the country’s National Health Insurance Service database, which offers a free health exam to insured Koreans over the age of 40 twice a year. 

Participants were about 55 years old on average, and none had dementia at the start of the study.

Each completed a health assessment between 2009 and 2011, where they were asked about how many days a week they drank alcohol and in what quantity.

They also returned in 2018, about seven to eight years later, and answered the same questions on alcohol consumption as well as whether they had been diagnosed with dementia.  

Participants were split into four groups: Nondrinkers, mild drinkers (who had less than 15 grams (g) of alcohol a day, or about one drink), moderate drinkers (who had 15 to 30g of alcohol), and heavy drinkers (those consuming more than 30g daily).

In the U.S., the CDC considers a standard drink to contain about 14 grams of alcohol. 

This is equivalent to a 12-ounce can of beer, a five-ounce glass of wine, or a 1.5-ounce shot of distilled spirits.

Throughout the study, there were 100,000 cases of all-cause dementia detected.

After adjusting for factors including age, sex, smoker status and exercise levels, the researchers found those who drank in mild or moderate amounts had a lower risk of developing the disease.

But reducing alcohol consumption over the study also had an effect.

Commenting on the results, Dr Dan Malleck — a public health expert at Brock University in Canada who was not involved in the research — told DailyMail.com: ‘I’m always eager to jump on any study that shows that alcohol has protective effects against some illnesses, but I’m not going to jump yet.

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‘With research like this, there is always the question of causation versus correlation, and what I call the cart-before-the-horse effect.’

He added: ‘The study shows a relationship between drinking moderately and lower dementia.

‘Does moderate alcohol consumption reduce dementia risk, or are people less likely to get dementia more likely to drink in moderation?’

Dr Percy Griffin, the director of scientific engagement at the Alzheimer’s Association, said: ‘While this study is interesting, and this topic deserves further study, no one should drink alcohol as a method of reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia based on this study.

‘This is an association study and does not give information on causes.’

He added: ‘The Alzheimer’s Association is continuing to monitor the ever-evolving science on dementia risk.’

Limitations to the study include that it relied on people self-reporting alcohol consumption, with many being notoriously bad at remembering how much they consumed.

The non-drinking group also tended to be older and from a lower socioeconomic background compared to the others, which may raise their risk of dementia from other causes. 

Dr Keun Hye Jeon, an assistant professor at CHA Gumi Medical Center in Gumi, South Korea, who led the study told CNN: ‘We found that maintaining mild to moderate alcohol consumption as well as reducing alcohol consumption from a heavy to moderate level were associated with a decreased risk of dementia.’

WHAT IS DEMENTIA?

Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of neurological disorders

Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of neurological disorders

A GLOBAL CONCERN 

Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of progressive neurological disorders (those affecting the brain) which impact memory, thinking and behaviour. 

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There are many types of dementia, of which Alzheimer’s disease is the most common.

Some people may have a combination of different types of dementia.

Regardless of which type is diagnosed, each person will experience dementia in their own unique way.

Dementia is a global concern but it is most often seen in wealthier countries, where people are likely to live into very old age.

HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE AFFECTED?

The Alzheimer’s Society reports there are more than 900,000 people living with dementia in the UK today. This is projected to rise to 1.6 million by 2040.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, affecting between 50 and 75 per cent of those diagnosed.

In the US, it’s estimated there are 5.5 million Alzheimer’s sufferers. A similar percentage rise is expected in the coming years.

As a person’s age increases, so does the risk of them developing dementia.

Rates of diagnosis are improving but many people with dementia are thought to still be undiagnosed.

IS THERE A CURE?

Currently there is no cure for dementia.

But new drugs can slow down its progression and the earlier it is spotted, the more effective treatments can be.

Source: Alzheimer’s Society 

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