An observational, cross-sectional cohort study examined the association between amount and frequency of alcohol consumption with multiple domains of cognitive function in a cohort of older community-dwelling adults in southern California. 1,624 participants of the Rancho Bernardo Study (mean age ± SD = 73.2 ± 9.3 years) completed a neuropsychological test battery, self-administered questionnaires on alcohol consumption and lifestyle, and a clinical health evaluation. They were classified based on average amount of alcohol intake into never, former, moderate, heavy and excessive drinkers, and according to frequency of alcohol intake, into non-drinkers, rare, infrequent, frequent and daily drinkers. The association between alcohol intake and cognitive function was examined, controlling for age, sex, education, exercise, smoking, waist-hip ratio, hypertension and self-assessed health.
Amount and frequency of alcohol intake were significantly associated with cognitive function. Global and executive function showed positive linear associations with amount and frequency of alcohol intake, whereas visual memory showed an inverted U-shaped association with alcohol intake, with better performance for moderate and infrequent drinkers than for non-drinkers, excessive drinkers or daily drinkers.
The research found that in several cognitive domains, moderate, regular alcohol intake was associated with better cognitive function relative to not drinking or drinking less frequently. This suggests that beneficial cognitive effects of alcohol intake may be achieved with low levels of drinking that are unlikely to be associated with adverse effects in an aging population.
Source: Moderate, Regular Alcohol Consumption is Associated with Higher Cognitive Function in Older Community-Dwelling Adults. Reas ET, Laughlin GA, Kritz-Silverstein D, Barrett-Connor E, McEvoy LK. J Prev Alzheimers Dis. 2016 Sep;3(2):105-113.