Drinking two to three units of alcohol every day is linked to a reduced risk of death among people with early stage Alzheimer’s disease, according to Danish research.
Moderate drinking has been associated with a lower risk of developing and dying from heart disease and stroke, but alcohol is known to damage brain cells, noted researchers.
“The results of our study point towards a potential, positive association of moderate alcohol consumption on mortality in patients with Alzheimer’s disease”
They analysed data on 321 people with early stage Alzheimer’s disease – defined as a score of 20 or less on the mini mental state exam (MMSE).
The data came from the Danish Alzheimer’s Intervention Study, which set out to assess the impact of a 12-month programme of psychosocial counselling and support, and tracked progress for three years afterwards.
It included information on how much alcohol people with early stage dementia or Alzheimer’s drank every day.
Around one in 10 (8%) drank no alcohol and at the other end of the scale, around one in 20 (4%) drank more than three units daily. Most of the sample (71%) drank one or fewer units a day.
During the monitoring period, 53 (16.5%) of those with mild Alzheimer’s disease died. Consumption of two to three units of alcohol every day was associated with a 77% lowered risk of death, compared with a tally of one or fewer daily units.
There was no significant difference in death rates among those drinking no alcohol or more than three units every day, compared with those drinking one or fewer daily units.
The results held true after taking account of a range of factors including gender, age, other underlying conditions, educational attainment, smoking and MMSE result.
The researchers said there could be several explanations for the results, for example, people who drink moderately have a richer social network, which has been linked to improved quality of life.
“The results of our study point towards a potential, positive association of moderate alcohol consumption on mortality in patients with Alzheimer’s disease,” they said in the journal BMJ Open.
“However, we cannot solely, on the basis of this study, either encourage or advise against moderate alcohol consumption in [these] patients,” they added.
They suggested that further research looking at the impact of alcohol on cognitive decline and disease progression in patients with mild Alzheimer’s disease would be particularly informative.