Abstaining from alcohol in middle age can increase dementia risk

Middle-aged non-drinkers may have 'higher risk' of dementia

But the risk also increased by 17 percent for every three additional drinks above six.

A total of 397 cases of dementia were recorded over the 23 years in which the study took place. Researchers traced participants' health records for dementia using the databases of the national hospital episode statistics, the Mental Health Services Data Set, and the mortality register.

But the reasons why abstinence and excessive drinking are harmful are thought to be different.

"Some of the excess risk of dementia in abstainers was explained by greater risk of cardiometric disease", such as stroke, coronary heart disease and diabetes, Sabia and her team concluded.

Worldwide, about seven per cent of people over 65 suffer from some form of dementia, a percentage that rises to 40 per cent above the age of 85.

After taking account of sociodemographic, lifestyle, and health related factors that could have affected the results, the researchers found that abstinence in midlife or drinking more than 14 units a week was associated with a higher risk of dementia compared with drinking 1-14 units of alcohol a week.

While chronic heavy drinking was found to be linked to a higher risk for dementia, a new study suggests that people who abstain from drinking in middle age are also more likely to develop the disease.

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Commenting on the study, Dr Sara Imarisio, head of research at Alzheimer's Research UK, said: 'As this study only looked at people's drinking in midlife, we don't know about their drinking habits earlier in adulthood, and it is possible that this may contribute to their later life dementia risk.

The long-term study - which tracked the health of civil servants working in London - found that both groups of people who drank over the recommended limits and also those who have abstained from alcohol entirely were at an increased risk of contracting the disease.

Guidance from the United Kingdom chief medical officer states that men and women should drink no more than 14 units of alcohol each week - the equivalent of around six pints of beer.

'The study tells us little about how drinking above low risk guidance beyond the of age of 55 affects the development of dementia.

However, the researchers said that this is an observational study, so no firm conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect, and they cannot rule out the possibility that some of the risk may be due to unmeasured factors. "We recommend that people enjoy a drink responsibly, but don't overdo it".

Downing up to six pints of beer or glasses of wine a week protects against dementia, a study suggests.

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