By Elizabeth Cohen
Senior Medical Correspondent
You’ve probably heard a glass of wine is good for the heart, and now a new study shows drinking may also help stave off dementia as well.
Researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in North Carolina asked senior citizens how often they drank alcoholic beverages. After following the 3,069 study subjects for six years, the researchers found that those who had a drink or two a day were 40 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia compared to senior citizens who didn’t drink at all or drank more than an average of two drinks a day. It didn’t matter what type of alcohol the senior citizens drank.
“We were excited to see that even in older adults, moderate alcohol intake decreases the risk of dementia,” said Dr. Kaycee Sink, a geriatrician and senior author of the paper, which is being presented Monday in Vienna at an Alzheimer’s Association conference. “As of yet, we still have no cure for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, so it is important to look for things that might help people prevent the disease.”
Drinking, however, was harmful for the senior citizens who started the study with mild cognitive impairment. For this group, consumption of alcohol in any amount was associated with faster rates of cognitive decline.
Dr. Laurel Coleman, a geriatrician in Maine and a member of the Board of Directors of the Alzheimer’s Association, who was not involved in the research, said the study is significant.
“A 40 percent lower risk of dementia is a meaningful change,” Coleman said. “This is really big.” She added more research needs to be done to determine why alcohol might stave off dementia.