Moderate drinkers more likely to live to 85 without dementia

Your high school Driver’s Ed instructor probably warned you that drinking alcohol destroys brains cells. But a new study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that moderate alcohol consumption actually benefits brain health.

For this study, researchers with the University of California San Diego School of Medicine tracked drinking habits and cognitive health in 1,344 older adults between 1984 and 2013.

The researchers labeled drinking as “moderate,” “heavy” or “excessive” using guidelines established by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

NIH categorizes consumption levels as the following:

  • “moderate” drinking:
    • up to one drink per day for adult women of any age, and for men 65 and older;
    • up to two drinks per day for men under 65.
  • “heavy” drinking:
    • up to three drinks per day for women of any age, and for men 65 and older;
    • four drinks per day for men under 65.
  • “excessive” drinking:
    • four or more drinks per day for women of any age, and for men 65 and older;
    • Five or more drinks per day for men under 65.

In addition, the researchers evaluated cognitive health over the course of the study using a standard screening test for dementia.

Moderate drinking linked to longer lives without dementia

Overall, the researchers found that older, white, middle-class adults who moderately consumed alcohol had “significantly higher” odds of living to the age of 85 without dementia or other cognitive impairments compared to non-drinkers.

And perhaps more amazingly, men and women over 85 who consumed “heavy” or “moderate” amounts of alcohol five to seven days per week were twice as likely to be cognitively healthy compared to non-drinkers.

The researchers stated that there weren’t enough “excessive” drinkers in the study to observe any effects. But I suspect that if they had found any cognitive problems, they would’ve reported them anyway.

Of course, I have some serious questions about the science the NIH uses to define “moderation,” “heavy” and “excessive” alcohol consumption in the first place. Indeed, NIH’s politically correct prohibitionist guidelines clearly discount and even ignore the evidence found in studies such as this one.

It’s not about the science

As I explained last week, politically correct public health “experts” often try to take any problem (whether an addiction, infection or behavior), which clearly applies only to one small group and apply it to the group at large.

And since alcohol poses a problem for 9 percent of people who drink, they feel they need to protect the other 91 percent of us against any and all alcohol. They try to convince us all that “everyone is at risk” in an effort to secure more funding, more control and more restrictions of our civil liberties. In addition, they make drinking guidelines stricter than they should.

I must point out that the researchers in the above study even tried to explain away their own results by making some convoluted arguments about how income levels, body weight, and smoking might have affected the results. But they controlled for all these same risk factors. In other words, they had already eliminated the factors that could’ve confounded the results. So, they just can’t make their own data and results go away, as much as they might like to.

Instead of trying to rewrite their own results, maybe the University of California San Diego scientists should reroute their efforts to advising the NIH to update their politically correct, prohibitionist guidelines on alcohol.

Ongoing, noteworthy data on moderate alcohol consumption

This isn’t the first study to show some impressive health benefits for moderate drinking. Other studies link moderate alcohol intake to improved longevity. Those findings make sense, as moderate alcohol consumption improves circulation and prevents heart disease, the leading killer among people older than 70 years.

Indeed, most previous studies on moderate alcohol consumption look at heart health. (In my view, alcohol benefits the heart’s health primarily because it reduces stress.)

In fact, as I’ll discuss in an upcoming Daily Dispatch, a couple of basic “traditional medicinals” — like taking a daily, low-dose aspirin and having a drink or two each night — would probably do more good, for more people, than all the heart drugs on the market. Especially statins.

Now, before I leave you today, I should probably mention the recent news stories about alcohol consumption and cancer risk. One headline I saw ominously proclaimed, “No amount of alcohol is safe.”

Of course, my job is to dig past the headlines. Turns out, the news stories weren’t based on any new evidence, old evidence, or any evidence at all!

Instead, a bunch of doctors just got together to issue what basically amounts to a “manifesto” against alcohol. It has nothing to do with the actual science! (I’m putting the final touches on that report now and I’ll share it with you on January 1, 2018. Stay tuned!)

In the meantime, eat, drink and be merry in moderation. It seems like a good prescription for both brain and heart health. For more details about this important study, see the November 2017 issue of my Insiders’ Cures newsletter. (If you’re not yet a subscriber, now is the perfect time to get started.)



1. “Alcohol Intake and Cognitively Healthy Longevity in Community-Dwelling Adults: The Rancho Bernardo Study,” Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease 2017; 59(3) 803-814