Researchers examine low to moderate alcohol consumption and cognitive function among people in mid and late-adulthood

The internationally-based coalition of researchers examined more than 19,000 participants as part of the Health and Retirement Study.

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A collaboration between researchers at the University of Georgia, California State University, and institutions in Beijing, China unveiled new findings on how alcohol consumption affects cognitive function among middle and older adults.

Appearing in JAMA Network Open, the coalition of researchers examined more than 19,000 participants as part of the Health and Retirement Study and followed up on average in 9 years or so. The examinations were conducted between 1996 through 2008, while the data was assessed by researchers from mid to late-2019.

“Does an association exist between current low to moderate alcohol drinking and cognitive function trajectories or rates of cognitive decline from middle to older age among US adults?” the co-authors asked in their findings.

“In this cohort study of 19, 887 participants from the Health and Retirement Study, with a mean follow-up of 9.1 years, when compared with never drinking, low to moderate drinking was associated with significantly better trajectories of higher cognition scores for mental status, word recall, and vocabulary and with lower rates of decline in each of these cognition domains,” the study determined.

According to the results, researchers were able to draw the conclusion that low to moderate alcohol consumption correlated with better global cognitive scores among older adults. The scores were generally higher for white participants compared to black participants.

“The present study found that low to moderate drinking was associated with consistently high cognitive function trajectories, that is, cognitive test scores at the baseline middle-aged assessment were relatively high and remained high at each subsequent assessment, and a decreased rate of cognitive decline with age for middle-aged or older US adults,” the co-authors concluded.

“Studies examining the mechanisms underlying the association between alcohol drinking and cognition in middle-aged or older adults are needed.”

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