Two pints a day ‘speeds up memory loss’

16th January, 2014 by Lauren Eads

Middle-aged men who drink two pints a day could run the risk of speeding up memory loss, a study by the University College London has found.

A pint of beerThe report, based on a 10-year study and published in the journal Neurology, warned that middle-aged men who drink the equivalent of two and half pints a day risk speeding up the effects of memory loss and mental decline by up to six years, according to The Telegraph.

However women were found to be immune with no strong evidence to suggest heavy drinking sped up memory loss  with women who abstained completely actually found to be at greater risk than those who drank moderately.

In the first long term study of its kind more than 7,000 male and female civil servants were tested over a ten year period with researchers finding that men who regularly drank significant amounts of alcohol suffered notable mental decline.

However men who drank less than one and a half pints a day, or a glass and a half of wine, suffered no impact on mental ability.

The heaviest drinkers were found to have the equivalent memory of someone in their early 70s even though they were in their 60s.

Dr Severine Sabia, from University College London, said: “Much of the research evidence about drinking and a relationship to memory and executive function is based on older populations.

“Our study focused on middle-aged participants and suggests that heavy drinking is associated with faster decline in all areas of cognitive function in men.”

Volunteers were first tested at the average age of 56 between 1997 and 1999 and again 10 years later.

To test memory decline volunteers were given two minutes to recall a set of 20 two-syllable words and asked to complete a series of reasoning and problem-solving tests.

All male heavy drinkers showed a decline in memory, reasoning and problem-solving of least 1.5 years but in the most severe cases, mental ability had declined by nearly six years.

Dr Sabia added: “Our findings are in agreement with previous studies that moderate alcohol consumption is probably not deleterious for cognitive outcomes, but they also show that heavy alcohol consumption in midlife is likely to be harmful for cognitive ageing, at least in men.”

But the report brought good news for women with researchers finding that there was only “weak evidence” to suggest that heavy drinking was associated with faster memory decline while women who completely abstained were at a higher risk of “faster decline” of cognitive function. 

Current NHS guidelines recommend no more than three to four units a day for men, the equivalent of two normal strength pints of beer, and two to three units for women.

Figures show that men who drink more than that limit are twice as likely to get cancer of the mouth, neck and throat, while women are 1.2 times as likely to get breast cancer.

Previous studies have found that people who have more than two alcoholic drinks a day develop Alzheimer’s disease five years earlier than those who abstain.

However a glass of wine a day has been found to cut the chance of developing dementia.

 

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