A UCL study on recall and thinking finds cognition
deteriorating in middle-age drinkers up to six years
earlier than normal. The 10-year study published in
Neurology found ‘significant deterioration’ in memory
for men drinking more than 36g a day.
The researchers, led by Séverine Sabia of the
department of epidemiology and public health,
analysed data that has been generated by the
Whitehall II study, a massive group of civil servants
whose health has been investigated over many years.
Data was taken from 5,054 men and 2,099 women
with a mean age of 56 years (range 44–69 years) at first
cognitive assessment in 1997. Alcohol consumption
was assessed 3 times in the 10 years following the first
cognitive assessment in 2002–2004 and 2007–2009.
The cognitive test battery included 4 tests assessing
memory and executive function.
The results showed that in men, there were no
differences in cognitive decline among alcohol
abstainers, quitters, and light or moderate alcohol
drinkers (<20 g/d). However, alcohol consumption ≥36
g/d was associated with faster decline in all cognitive
domains compared with consumption between
0.1 and 19.9 g/d: mean difference (95% confidence
interval) in 10-year decline in the global cognitive
score = -0.10 (-0.16, -0.04), executive function = -0.06
(-0.12, 0.00), and memory = -0.16 (-0.26, -0.05). In
women, compared with those drinking 0.1 to 9.9 g/d
of alcohol, 10-year abstainers showed faster decline
in the global cognitive score (-0.21 [-0.37, -0.04]) and
executive function (-0.17 [-0.32,-0.01]).
The authors conclude that excessive alcohol
consumption in men (≥36 g/d) was associated with
faster cognitive decline compared with light to
moderate alcohol consumption. Not enough women
in the study were heavy drinkers for the scientists to
conclude the same things happened to them but
light drinking was protective.
Alcohol consumption and cognitive decline in early old
age; Séverine Sabia, Alexis Elbaz, Annie Britton, Steven
Bell, Aline Dugravot, Martin Shipley, Mika Kivimaki, and
Archana Singh- Manoux. Neurology, online 15 January