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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Does Drinking Slow Or Fast Dementia?

Anyone who reads a daily paper could be forgiven for wondering how carbs, alcohol, fats — a whole host of things, really — can be reported as healthy one day and unhealthy the next. Of the conflicted bunch, however, alcohol just might be most enduringly confusing: scientific studies proclaim that it protects against heart attack and stroke, while others suggest it promotes violent tendencies or destroys the liver. Why the mixed messages? A new study demonstrates what can go wrong.

The latest in a long line of research on alcohol's benefits — sure to cause a stir — is a paper by geriatrics researchers at the University of Bari in Italy appearing in the May 22 issue of Neurology, revealing that the progression of dementia may be slower in people who drink moderately than in teetotalers. A survey of elderly Italians — 1,445 of whom had no cognitive impairment and 121 who suffered mild cognitive impairment (MCI) — found that, over 3.5 years, those with MCI who drank less than one drink a day progressed to dementia at a rate 85% slower than those who drank nothing. Drinking more did not seem to be better than drinking nothing. Expect big headlines to follow: "Booze boosts the brain"; "A drink a day keeps dementia away."

The problem is, of course, that that's not what the Bari scientists actually wrote in their paper. They said only that a drink a day may keep dementia away. Like so many studies of this kind, where researchers follow a large group without making any interventions of their own, it can be hard to distinguish the effects of alcohol from the effects of other lifestyle factors. As the Neurology article plainly states: "It is... possible that moderate lifestyles in general, which obviously vary according to different cultural environments, protect from cognitive impairment. Thus it may not be the direct effect of alcohol or specific substances in alcoholic drinks that provide the protection."

In other words, common sense and your own personal experience might explain just as much of the association between drinking and delayed mental decay as can be explained by neurology.
More at:http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1623739,00.html?xid=rss-topstories

Posted by Ajay :: 9:27 AM :: 0 comments

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