Drinking This Popular Beverage Slashes Your Dementia Risk 38 Percent, New Study Says

Enjoying two of these drinks a day could make you less likely to develop the cognitive condition.

As we get older, worries about dementia naturally become more pressing. The cognitive condition—which currently has no cure—currently affects nearly 55 million people worldwide, and 10 million more cases are diagnosed each year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Unfortunately, there's still plenty the medical community is struggling to understand about dementia, despite how urgent an issue it is to global health. New research is making it easier to stay on top of any potential early warning signs and identify what could affect someone's risk. And now, a recently released study has found that drinking one popular beverage could reduce your dementia risk by as much as 38 percent. Read on to see which beverage could have significant brain health benefits.

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Studies have established links between certain beverages and dementia risk.

Two People Drinking Soda.

Since what you drink is an important part of your overall diet, it's not surprising that research has shown that your beverage of choice can significantly affect your personal risk of developing dementia. Scientists have supplied evidence that common beverages may have a positive effect: One study published last April found that people who drank tea were 16 percent less likely to develop certain forms of dementia compared to those who did not partake in the brewed beverage.

However, other drinks have been linked to potentially worse health outcomes. For example, a 2017 study published in the journal Stroke established a connection between diet soda consumption and dementia, finding that those who drank artificially sweetened beverages were three times more likely to develop the condition than those who drank them less than once a week.

But even regular sodas could prove problematic. A separate 2017 study published in the journal Alzheimer's & Dementia found that participants who drank two or more sugary beverages showed "multiple signs of accelerated brain aging, including smaller overall brain volume, poorer episodic memory, and a shrunken hippocampus," all of which are considered risk factors for the early stages of Alzheimer's disease.

Now, new research is offering more insight into what could reduce your chances of cognitive decline.

Drinking this popular beverage daily could reduce your dementia risk by more than a third.

A group of senior men drinking beer at a bar

If you enjoy meeting up with friends to catch up over pints, or reaching for a beer after a long afternoon of yard work, you may be happy to learn that you could be boosting your brain health.

A recent study published on Aug. 22 in the journal Addiction used data from 15 previous studies to collect information on the drinking habits and dementia diagnoses of a total of 24,478 participants over the age of 60. None had been diagnosed with cognitive decline at the beginning of their respective studies.

The research team then split the group into those who completely abstained from alcohol, occasional drinkers who consumed 1.3 grams of ethanol daily, light-to-moderate drinkers who took in between 1.3 grams and 25 grams per day, moderate-to-heavy drinks who clocked an intake of 25 grams to 45 grams, and heavy drinkers who consumed more than 45 grams daily. On average, common beverages such as a pint of beer or a medium-sized glass of wine contain 16 and 18 grams of ethanol, respectively, The Daily Mail reports.

Analysis showed that 2,124 participants were diagnosed with dementia over 40 years of follow-up. But it also found that those in the occasional and light-to-moderate drinking groups were 22 percent less likely to develop cognitive decline than those who drank no alcohol. And while heavy drinkers were still found to be 19 percent less likely to be diagnosed with the disease, participants in the moderate-to-heavy consumption group who drank the equivalent of up to two and a half pints of beer a day saw the most significant benefit, with a 38 percent drop in their dementia risk, per The Daily Mail.

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Only one group saw no reduction in their dementia risk.

older woman looking out the window
fizkes / Shutterstock

In a tweet discussing the findings, Louise Mewton, PhD, a public health researcher from the University of New South Wales and the study's lead author, pointed out that one group stood out as being at a higher risk for cognitive decline. Even after adjusting for those who were former drinkers and controlling for other risk factors, those who completely abstained were the only group to see an "increased risk of dementia."

However, she also pointed out significant caveats in the findings. Citing previous research, she said that "even low-level drinking is associated with increased cancer risk [and] atrophy in brain structures linked to dementia, i.e., the hippocampus." Because of this, she concluded that "advising those who currently abstain to initiate drinking is not recommended."

Researchers say the findings could affect how we approach dementia treatment.

A group of senior women sitting at a table drinking beer together

The researchers pointed out that there were several limitations to the data. Besides the fact that the set included very few heavy drinkers, participants self-reported consumption, which often leads to underreporting. The type of alcohol consumed was also not logged, making it challenging to examine potential differences between styles, The Daily Mail reports

But overall, Mewton said the findings might make it worthwhile to reconsider how we approach combating the disease. "While other studies show that heavy alcohol use is strongly linked with dementia and is a key target for prevention, our study questions whether reducing less than heavy alcohol use in older adults is an effective dementia prevention strategy from a public health perspective," she wrote in a tweet.

Research has provided conflicting information on how alcohol consumption affects brain health. Besides the works noted by Mewton that mention the potential risks, some have found moderate drinking can actually reduce levels of beta-amyloid protein in the brain that creates the plaque associated with Alzheimer's disease. Still, other experts pointed out that the latest results helped strengthen some existing theories.

'These results are consistent with previous research on this topic, which also show that heavy consumption of alcohol, as well as not drinking, seems linked to a higher risk of dementia," Sara Imarisio, PhD, head of research at Alzheimer's Research U.K., told The Daily Mail. But she still echoed Mewton's warnings that alcohol could damage brain cells, adding that excessive drinking over time can "change the way our brains work" by changing their shape and size.

Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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