Heavy drinking may increase risk for dementia

But he said the Lancet research did not change the current advice and did not suggest that moderate alcohol intake could cause early-onset dementia. Of the test group, 57% of the 57,000 patients diagnosed with early-onset dementia had chronic heavy drinking problems where in they would consume more than four drinks a day.

Study author Michael Schwarzinger says that while the rate of alcohol use disorders is lower in the USA than in France, "it remains substantial enough to be considered [a] major risk factor for dementia onset".

The bottom line? "Alcohol use disorders were a major risk factor for onset of all types of dementia, and especially early-onset dementia" per the study.

Alcohol use disorders were associated with a three-fold increase in risk of all types of dementia: they were also the strongest modifiable risk factor for dementia onset.

CAMH Vice-President of Research Dr. Bruce Pollock said, "As a geriatric psychiatrist, I frequently see the effects of alcohol use disorder on dementia, when unfortunately alcohol treatment interventions may be too late to improve cognition".

During the same period, there were 94,5512 people - more than 85 per cent of them alcohol dependent - diagnosed with alcohol use disorders. "Heavy drinking is associated with smoking, depression and low educational attainment - also dementia risk factors". "Therefore, it is somewhat unsurprising that early-onset dementia identifies a cluster of men with alcohol use disorders".

Now, a new study claims to have found another worrying link between the bottle and the brain.

It included all patients over 20 discharged with alcohol-related brain damage, vascular dementia or other forms of brain-wasting diseases like Alzheimer's.

Schwarzinger said the information collected showed that once the brain was affected by alcohol consumption, there was no way of repairing the damage.

More specifically, the study authors focused on patients who had been diagnosed with mental and behavioral disorders, or chronic diseases that were attributable to chronic harmful use of alcohol, according to a release on the findings from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. "We know this was wrong, but that it turned out to be the most important risk factor for all kinds of dementia in controlled analyses [and] it was surprising".

"Surprisingly, we've not traditionally considered alcohol and its misuse as an important risk factor for dementia and we were clearly wrong not to have done so".

The study said alcohol use disorders have a huge impact on life expectancy.

Overall, 6.2% of men discharged from hospital had a diagnosis of alcohol use disorders. In a linked comment, Prof Clive Ballard of the University of Exeter Medical School in the United Kingdom, said that this study is "immensely important".

"This large study provides further evidence that heavy drinking is associated with a greatly elevated risk of cognitive impairment, and that this can occur at a relatively young age", observed Killian Welch, PhD, of the University of Edinburgh, who was not involved in the study. Also, alcohol use disorders may have been underreported, especially when compared with prevalence estimates of 16.7% for men and 5.4% for women in France.

Disclosures: Schwarzinger is the founder and CEO of the Translational Health Economics Network in France, which receives grants from AbbVie, Gilead, Merck and Novartis.

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