Page last updated: October 31, 2017

The impact of alcohol on cognitive functions and dementia - evidence of dose-related effects

Regular alcohol consumption could affect cognitive performance and the development of dementia. So far, findings are contradictory, which might be explained in part by dose-related effects. For this narrative review, researchers undertook a literature search for surveys investigating the impact of alcohol consumption on cognitive performance and the development of dementia. The majority of studies observed a U-shaped relationship between regular alcohol consumption and cognitive function: frequent heavy consumption of alcohol alters brain functions and decreases cognitive performance; regular light and moderate consumption may have protective impact.

In many studies, total abstainers show an inferior cognitive performance than people with moderate or light consumption. Nevertheless, the authors state that policy implications are difficult to draw for at least 2 reasons: (1) the possible risks associated with alcohol consumption and (2) the potential confounders in the group of non-consumers and heavy consumers.

Source: Drink and think: impact of alcohol on cognitive functions and dementia - evidence of dose-related effects Gutwinski S; Schreiter S; Priller J; Henssler J; Wiers CE; Heinz A. Pharmacopsychiatry, published early online 26 September 2017.

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