Dementia is a problem that nearly everyone in Singapore has probably seen with their own two eyes. Whether it is your parents, grandparents or spouses, everyone knows about the horrifying effects of dementia. While it is not a terminal illness like cancer, victims of dementia are often a heartbreaking sight. They forget everything about their loved ones, hallucinate and have low attention spans. Currently, the best way to prevent dementia is by eating fruits, exercising, managing stress and having enough sleep. Simple right? Surprisingly, there is another way to stave off dementia that you would not expect: drinking alcohol.
Drinking alcohol may yield more health benefits than previously thought. A study was recently published in the BMJ, detailing the effects of alcohol consumption on dementia. 9,087 adults aged 35-55 years old were studied over the course of 23 years. Their alcohol consumption was monitored from 1985 to 2004. They also utilised data from questionnaires to gauge alcohol dependence and medical records to identify any alcohol-related diseases from 1991 to 2017. 397 people developed dementia, with an average age of 76.
The research team used the standard UK measurement, units of alcohol, with each unit containing 8 grams of pure alcohol. Heavy drinkers, those who drank more than 14 units a week, were more likely to develop dementia and every 7 unit increase resulted in a 17% increase in the risk of dementia. However, what was more surprising was that those who abstained completely from alcohol in their midlife were also 47 per cent more likely to develop dementia. Overall, only those who consumed 1-14 units of alcohol a week (8-112 g) were at lower risk of dementia. The study suggests that those who abstained were more likely to develop dementia partially due to the Cardiometabolic syndrome, in which the victim has high insulin resistance, impaired glucose tolerance and hypertension.
“Findings on abstainers should not motivate people who do not drink to start drinking alcohol due to the adverse effects of alcohol on mortality, cirrhosis of the liver and cancer,” lead study author Severine Sabia of Paris-Saclay University in France and University College London noted, according to a report in Reuters. “In addition, given the detrimental effect of alcohol for several health outcomes, people who drink in an excessive manner should be encouraged to reduce their alcohol consumption.”
A different study, done in The Lancet Public Health, seems to support this study. Out of the 57,000 cases of those who developed dementia before the age of 65, 57 per cent were related to heavy drinking, with at least 60g of alcohol consumption monthly.
Luckily, Singaporeans generally tend to not drink much alcohol. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2010, our alcohol consumption rate has remained somewhat stagnant from 1961 to 2010 and our drinking pattern score is a 2 out of 5, with 5 being most risky and 1 being least risky. However, a sizable portion of the drinking population, 8.9 per cent, are heavy drinkers. WHO defines heavy drinking as consuming at least 60g (7.5 units) or more of pure alcohol on at least one occasion in the past 30 days. So while Singaporeans are generally in the safe zone, there are some that are at risk.
So, don’t feel guilty pick up an occasional drink every once in a while. It’s for your own health. Just remember do it in moderation.
By Muhd Farhan