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Heavy drinking linked to early onset of memory decline

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 2014.

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