Heavy drinking may speed memory loss

By Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects
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A new British study finds middle-aged men who drink more than two-and-a-half alcoholic beverages a day may speed their memory loss by as many as 6 years.

"This is what we call an association study. So, they see these associations, it's not clear if these are cause and effect or just an association related to some other aspect that is common in these heavier drinking men," said Dr. James Leverenz, who did not take part in the study but treats dementia at Cleveland Clinic and is the director at the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health.

Researchers at University College London studied more than 5,000 men and nearly 2,100 women. Their average age was 56. They found no differences in memory and executive function among men who did not drink, or drank less than two alcoholic beverages per day.

Butm heavy drinking men showed declines between one-and-a-half to six years faster than the light drinkers. They did not find similar results in women; in fact, they found women who drank less saw more cognitive decline during the same period of time.

Researchers say previous research on the relationship between drinking and memory loss was done on older populations, not middle-aged people, so more studies are needed. Leverenz says the findings, if nothing else, remind us all to drink in moderation.

"I think it does argue that perhaps we should all be careful as we drink," he said.

Complete findings for this study are available in the online issue of Neurology.

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