According to the conclusions of a new scientific investigation, elderly adults are more likely to develop dementia if they consume alcohol even as rarely as once per month. In other words, seniors who binge drink, even irregularly, are at increased risk of suffering from various forms of brain degeneration.
The research was carried out by investigators at the University of Exeter. The team says that the main motivation for the study was the lack of data on the influence of alcohol on the brains of senior adults.
The cognitive effects of binge drinking have been heavily studied around the world, but scientists mostly focused their attention on adolescents, teenagers, and young adults. No one really took the time to investigate how this habit might affect the elderly.
For the new study, the Exeter team looked at data covering 5,075 participants from the Health and Retirement Study, all of which were 65 or older, PsychCentral
reports. Information about the participants began being collected in 2002, and the research went on for around 8 years.
“We know binge drinking can be harmful. It can increase the risk of harm to the cardiovascular system, including the chance of developing heart disease and it is related to an increased risk of both intentional and unintentional injuries,” Exeter investigator and study leader, Dr. Iain Lang, explains.
“However, until we conducted our study it was not clear what the effect was of binge drinking on cognitive function and the risk of developing dementia,” the expert goes on to say. For this study, binge drinking was defined as drinking four glasses of alcoholic beverages or more in one sitting.
Researchers quantified participants' cognitive function and memory capabilities through a standardized Telephone Interview for Cognitive Status method. The team established that 8.3 percent of men and 1.5 percent of women met the definition for binge drinking.
Around 4.3 percent of men and 0.5 percent of women reported binge drinking twice monthly. “Those who reported binge drinking at least twice a month were more than twice as likely to have higher levels of decline in both cognitive function and memory,” Lang explains.
“These differences were present even when we took into account other factors known to be related to cognitive decline such as age and level of education. There’s a proven link between cognitive decline and risk of dementia,” the expert concludes.