WEDNESDAY, March 9, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- Drinking light to moderate amounts of alcohol may actually lower the risk for developing both Alzheimer's and some forms of age-related dementia, new German research suggests.
Though noting that full-fledged alcohol abuse accounts for about 10 percent of all dementia cases, the researchers reported that consumption of just one to two drinks a day appears to protect against the overall incidence of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
They caution, however, that the study found no evidence of a lower risk for either vascular dementia or general cognitive decline. Nor was it clear whether the risk varied by the type of alcohol consumed.
The findings, reported in the March 2 online edition of Age and Ageing, stem from periodic interviews over a three-year span with 3,327 participants, all 65 years of age and older. When the study began, 3,202 had no dementia, and the calculation of incident cases of dementia is based on these participants.
At the start of the study, about half of the participants did not drink, about one-fourth consumed less than one alcoholic drink a day, nearly 13 percent had one or two drinks daily and about 12 percent had more than two drinks a day. Wine was the most popular choice, followed by beer and then a mix of alcoholic beverages.
By the end of the study, 217 participants (7 percent) had developed dementia and 111 (3.5 percent) had Alzheimer's disease, the investigators found.
Light to moderate alcohol consumption was found to be associated with a lower incidence of dementia and Alzheimer's, and overall was tied to relatively good physical and mental health, Siegfried Weyerer, of the Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim, Germany, and colleagues reported.
The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more on dementia.