Some Alcohol May Preserve Cognition in Older Women

Low to moderate amounts of alcohol may postpone age-related cognitive decline in women

MONDAY, Dec. 29 (HealthDay News) -- Older women who drink low or moderate amounts of alcohol may have better cognitive performance and a slower rate of cognitive decline compared to those who don't drink, according to research published in the December issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

David J. Stott, M.D., of the University of Glasgow in the United Kingdom, and colleagues analyzed data from 5,804 men and women, aged 70 to 82. Subjects reported their alcohol consumption at baseline and underwent several assessments of cognitive function -- including the Mini-Mental-State-Examination (MMSE) -- at baseline and periodically over 3.2 years.

Female drinkers showed improved cognitive performance for all domains over the follow-up period compared with female non-drinkers, the investigators found. Men did not show significant effects. Female non-drinkers declined more on the MMSE than women who drank low or moderate amounts, the researchers report.

"There are a number of potential mechanisms by which low to moderate alcohol intake might protect against cognitive decline in older people. The alterations in lipids, lower fibrinogen levels, and inhibition of platelet aggregation that occur with low to moderate alcohol intake might be expected to reduce the risk of ischemic cerebrovascular events," the authors write. "It is not possible to comment on the possibility that modest alcohol ingestion causes enhanced release of acetylcholine in the brain; this could be a contributor to enhanced cognitive function and delayed age-associated cognitive decline seen with low to moderate alcohol intake."

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