Moderate Drinking May Reduce Risk Of Death In Early Stages Of Alzheimer's

First Posted: Dec 10, 2015 09:15 PM EST

Moderate drinking in patients with mild Alzheimer's disease (AD) may reduce the risk of dying during early stages of the illness, according to a recent study.

Among a sample of 321 patients with mild AD who were part of the Danish Alzheimer's Intervention Study (DAISY), 17 percent drank 2 to 3 units of alcohol a day while 71 percent only occasionally drank alcohol and another 8 percent never drank alcohol. Study results showed that those who drank daily were 77 percent more likely to be alive three years later when compared to occasional drinkers.

Previous studies have linked moderate alcohol consumption to lowered risk of cardiovascular disease. However, from a neurological standpoint, drinking alcohol is known to kill brain cells and even increase the risk of depression and anxiety in some individuals. 

"It came as a surprise," said the paper's senior author Frans Boch Waldorff, a professor in the Department of Public Health at University of Southern Denmark. "We thought perhaps if you had a brain disease, you would not tolerate alcohol in the way of people without brain disease."

At this time, researchers can't say for certain how moderate alcohol consumption might lower the deterioration of an individual's health with Alzheimer's disease (AD). One possibility could be that the non-drinkers may have had other health issues that prevented them from drinking or the drinkers could have had a stronger support system. The sample size used in the study was also relatively small and the data used in the study was not based on research specifically designed to understand links between alcohol and brain diseases.

"The results of our study point towards a potential, positive association of moderate alcohol consumption on mortality in patients with Alzheimer's disease," a spokesman for Danish Alzheimer's Intervention Study, which conducted the research, said. "However, we cannot solely, on the basis of this study, either encourage or advise against moderate alcohol consumption in (these) patients."

The study is published in BMJ.

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