Excessive alcohol use increases dementia risk, Study

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According to French researchers, 39 percent of all dementias are due to excessive alcohol consumption.

Regular heavy drinking is, according to French scientists, a crucial factor in all forms of dementia, especially in early memory loss. The results of the nationwide observational study, which ran from 2008 to 2013, have now been published in the journal “The Lancet Public Health”.

Data from French hospitals was used in the study, with a total of 57,000 people with brain damage, vascular dementia or other dementias (including Alzheimer’s) – caused by excessive alcohol consumption – included in the study. Physicians speak of premature dementia if the disease occurs before the age of 65. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 47 million people worldwide suffer from dementia.

In 60 to 70 percent, it is therefore Alzheimer’s. According to the WHO, “chronically heavy drinking” refers to the consumption of more than 60 grams of pure alcohol per day for men (about six standard drinks per day on average) and more than 40 grams per day for women.

Risk of further illness 39 percent of the 57,000 cases observed were attributable to alcohol-related brain damage. 18 percent of patients were suffering from other illnesses related to alcohol. Of the 945,512 people who consumed excess alcohol, 86 percent were diagnosed with alcohol dependence. All dementia forms taken together, the risk of disease tripled by excessive alcohol consumption, the researchers said.

“The link between dementia and alcohol consumption requires further research, but most likely alcohol leads to permanent structural and functional brain damage,” says study author Michael Schwarzinger from the Translational Health Economics Network. In addition, alcohol consumption increases the risk of hypertension, diabetes, strokes, atrial fibrillation and heart failure. This in turn can increase the vascular dementia risk.

Restriction of Alcohol Availability “Our findings suggest that the burden of dementia due to excessive alcohol consumption is much greater than previously thought,” says Schwarzinger, who calls for alcohol to be the main risk factor for all types of dementia.

“A variety of measures are needed, such as reducing availability, increasing taxes on alcohol and banning the advertising and marketing of alcohol, as well as the early detection and treatment of alcohol problems,” said the researcher.

Medicine expert David Llewellyn warned that such studies could not prove a causal relationship. Therefore, it is not certain that a reduction in alcohol consumption also reduces the risk of dementia.

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