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Not drinking alcohol in middle age has been linked to an increased risk of dementia

People who don’t drink in midlife have been found to have a 45% higher risk of dementia.

Image: Shutterstock/VDB Photos

NOT DRINKING ALCOHOL in middle age can heighten the risk of dementia in later life, according to new research.

A long-term study has found that people who abstained from alcohol and those who drank more than the recommended limits for men and women were at increased risk of the disease.

The study, published in the British Medical Journal, tracked the drinking habits of 9,000 civil servants, who were between the ages 35 and 55, for eight years.

They were then monitored for a further 23 years and nearly 400 cases of dementia were identified through hospital, mental health service and mortality records.

People who didn’t drink in midlife were found to have a 45% higher risk of dementia compared with people who consumed between one and 14 units of alcohol per week.

The British and French researchers concluded that the underlying mechanisms leading to dementia for excessive drinkers and those abstaining were probably different.

Among heavy drinkers, defined as those who drank more than 14 units per week, it was found that the risk of dementia increased the more a person drank. Every seven-unit-per-week increase resulted in a 17% rise in dementia risk.

Dr Sara Imarisio, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, noted that the study did not take into account the participants’ drinking habits earlier in life.

“People who completely abstain from alcohol may have a history of heavy drinking and this can make it difficult to interpret the links between drinking and health,” she said.

Future research will need to examine drinking habits across a whole lifetime, and this will help to shed more light on the relationship between alcohol and dementia.

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Ceimin Burke

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