The risk of developing involuntary tremors in later life is doubled by regularly drinking at least three units of alcohol a day, research suggests.
A study, published online by the journal Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, shows that every additional year of regular daily drinking increased the relative risk by 23%. Even those who drink fewer units, but who drink regularly, increase their risk - although not to the same extent.
An estimated 650,000 people in the UK and five million in the US over the age of 60 are affected by the neurological disorder known as essential tremor.
Scientists have yet to determine the exact cause, but it is thought to result from damage to particular brain (Purkinje) cells and disrupted signalling between the nerve ‘junction boxes’ or synapses.
The authors, led by a team from Columbia University in New York, said that alcohol was known to act as a brain toxin in the cerebellum - which is the part involved in involuntary tremor.
Looking at the lifetime alcohol consumption and neurological symptoms in almost 3,300 people aged 65 and above and taking account of factors such as lifetime cigarette smoking and depression, those who drank at least three units a day more than doubled their risk of essential tremor.