Thursday, January 20, 2005

Alcohol Protects Against Cognitive Decline

BrooklynDodger keeps returning to this theme because of personal concerns, but also out of a contrarian view of blame-the-victim health promotion programs. [Diseases can be stratified on whether they have "innocent" victims or "guilty" victims; for example, Type I diabetics are considered innocent, Type II maybe not so innocent.] Dodger has argued with a major authority that his risk factor rating would give better correlation to health outcomes if he counted "moderate" drinking as a protective factor, not a risk factor.

Anyway, the Nurses Health Study is a great source of data on women's health, although BrooklynDodger points out that it's a special population of women who do physical work, stay up to all hours of the night, and in the Dodger's experience, are pretty assertive in personality.

As with all alcohol studies, BrooklynDodger wonders how much the participants are lying about how much they drink; Dodger always does when filling out health risk appraisals.

Summarizing the abstract [available in full text on medline], the investigators evaluated cognitive function in 12,480 participants in the Nurses' Health Study who were 70 to 81 years old. Moderate drinkers (those who consumed less than 15.0 g of alcohol per day [about one drink]) had better mean cognitive scores than nondrinkers. Among moderate drinkers, as compared with nondrinkers, the relative risk of impairment was 0.77 for general cognition and 0.81 on the basis of a global cognitive score combining the results of all tests . The relative risk of a substantial decline in performance over a two-year period was 0.85 among moderate drinkers, as compared with nondrinkers. There were no significant associations between higher levels of drinking (15.0 to 30.0 g per day) and the risk of cognitive impairment or decline. There were no significant differences in risks according to the beverage (e.g., wine or beer).

NEJM Volume 352:245-253
January 20, 2005
Number 3
Effects of Moderate Alcohol Consumption on Cognitive Function in Women

Meir J. Stampfer, M.D., Jae Hee Kang, Sc.D., Jennifer Chen, M.P.H., Rebecca Cherry, M.D., and Francine Grodstein, Sc.D.

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