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Moderate Drinking May Help Prevent Alzheimer's, Other Dementia
Date:8/16/2011

TUESDAY, Aug. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Drinking moderate amounts of alcohol, especially wine, may lower the risk of dementia, according to a review of previous research.

The team at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine analyzed data from more than 365,000 people who took part in 143 studies that were conducted since 1977.

Moderate drinkers were 23 percent less likely to develop dementia, Alzheimer's disease and other forms of "cognitive impairment," a phrase used to describe a decline in thinking skills. Moderate drinking is generally defined as a maximum of two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.

On the other hand, heavy drinking (more than three to five drinks per day) was associated with a higher risk of dementia and cognitive impairment, but the researchers said this finding was not statistically significant.

"We don't recommend that nondrinkers start drinking. But moderate drinking -- if it is truly moderate -- can be beneficial," study co-author Edward J. Neafsey, a professor in the department of molecular pharmacology and therapeutics, said in a Loyola University Medical Center news release.

Wine appeared more beneficial than beer or spirits, but that finding was based on a relatively small number of studies, the study authors noted.

The researchers said the protective effect of moderate drinking remained after they factored in age, education, sex and smoking, and that the effects of alcohol were the same in men and women.

They also noted that the association between moderate drinking and reduced risk of dementia and cognitive impairment was statistically significant in 14 of 19 countries, including the United States.

Still, experts in neurological health weren't entirely sold on the findings.

"This study was well-designed and well-executed but falls in the category of epidemiology [population wide, observational studies]," said Dr. Sam Gandy,
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