For the study, researchers examined data from 2008-2013 on more than 31 million French hospital patients, including more than 1 million who were diagnosed with dementia. About 5 percent of the dementia patients had so-called early onset dementia that started before age 65, and most of these cases were alcohol-related, the study reported by Reuters found.
“Chronic heavy drinking was the most important modifiable risk factor for dementia onset in both genders and remained so after controlling for all known risk factors for dementia onset,” said lead study author Dr. Michael Schwarzinger, chief executive officer of Translational Health Economics Network and a researcher at INSERM–Universite Paris Diderot, Sorbonne Paris Cite in France.
Surprisingly, heavy drinkers who got sober didn’t have a lower dementia risk than their peers who remained problem drinkers,” Schwarzinger said by email .
“This finding supports that chronic heavy drinking leads to irreversible brain damage,” Schwarzinger added.
While some previous research suggests that alcohol may lead to cognitive impairments including a risk of dementia, other studies have linked light or moderate alcohol use to a healthier brain, researchers note in the Lancet Public Health.
Globally, an estimated 3.3 million people a year die as a result of alcohol misuse, accounting for about 6 percent of all deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Read the full story at Reuters.