Men who drink three-to-four units of alcohol daily can suffer from increased mental decline and memory failure after age 50, study says

LONDON , February 12, 2014 (press release) – The effect of drinking over the NHS recommended levels during middle age can not only increase your risk for cancer and Alzheimer’s, but now a study conducted at the University College London shows increased memory loss and cognitive decline is also apparent.

Drinking more than three to four units of alcohol a day can have adverse affects on the brain, leading to a speedy decline in mental alertness and motor skills, and increasing the risk for cancer, cardiovascular disease, and aggravating illnesses such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and other aliments associated with old age in general.

Although many studies prove excessive drinking effects men’s health, women also suffer similar risks at lower consumption levels of just two units of alcohol a day. A daily glass of wine, on the other hand, was found to diminish the development of dementia and cardiovascular disease.

There is abundant evidence related to alcohol effecting cognitive skills in the elderly, but in a bid to discover the origin of this recorded mental decline Dr, Severine Sabia conducted a cohort study at the University College London together with the French health and research body Inserm, on a group of more than 7,000 middle-aged volunteers, tracking their cognitive functions over a span of 10 years and comparing it with how many pints they had each day.

This mixed group of male and female civil servants were tested between the years 1997 and 1999, when they had an average age of 56, in a series of reasoning and problem-solving tests including rapidly viewing a list of 20 two-syllable words which they had to recall after awhile in under two minutes. 1

These same subjects were given the same series of tests 10 years later with the conclusive results showing that male heavy drinkers developed a decline in memory, reasoning and problem-solving of an average 1.5 years, and in cases where consistent over drinking took place the mental ability had declined by nearly six years.

Those who drank the most were found to have the memory capacity of someone 10 years their senior, for example those in their mid-60’s, who regularly consumed five or six pints daily while still in their 50’s had the mental capacity of a 70 year old. In contrast men who drank less than one and a half pints a day, or a glass and a half of wine suffered no impact on mental ability. 2

Women did not show the same level of increased mental decline according to their alcohol consumption, but those who abstained from drinking suffered faster mental decline in the global cognitive score on par with their age.

The study was published in the peer-reviewed British Medical Journal 3 and suggests further research is necessary to identify additional factors that influence the rate of cognitive decline, such as education, the work environment and home life, to determine whether some of these factors can be modified in the individual to slow this rate of decline.

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