The following article is part of conference coverage from the 2018 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Chicago, Illinois. Neurology Advisor’s staff will be reporting breaking news associated with research conducted by leading experts in neurology. Check back for the latest news from AAIC 2018.

CHICAGO – Light alcohol use is associated with increased cognitive function in older adults; an effect that is stronger in women and diminishes with greater alcohol consumption. This research was presented at the 2018 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, held July 22-26, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois.

Participants were drawn from the Health and Retirement Study, which provided multiple observations, genetic information, and previous alcohol use. To determine the degree of alcohol consumption, the study researchers inquired about whether each participant consumed alcohol and, if so, the number of drinks per day. Light drinkers were categorized as drinking ≤1/day for women and ≤2/day for men, while low numbers of heavy drinkers resulted in integrating the categories for moderate and heavy drinkers. Self-reported diabetes, previous heart condition, and stroke, as well as sex, age, race, education, and APOE ε4 positive status were used as age-varying covariate factors. Cognitive change over time was assessed using mixed effects models.

This study included 7900 individuals aged at least 65 years, 33.5% of whom reported use of alcohol at the time of the study. The Telephone Interview for Cognitive Status was used to evaluate mental function. Those who reported light alcohol consumption scored higher on this metric than others (β=0.32; P <.0001), which showed no interactions with sex or APOE ε4 positive status.  Women reporting light alcohol consumption significantly outperformed men who did not consume alcohol (β=1.16; P <.0001). Though non-APOE ε4 positive patients performed better than carriers, the deleterious effects of APOE ε4 positive status were mitigated in light consumers.

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The study researchers conclude that, “[congruent] with some prior studies, light alcohol use was associated with better cognitive function. Benefits appeared to be stronger in women than men and were diminished with increased alcohol use.”

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Hatch D, Saldana S, Hunter JC, et al. Light to moderate alcohol consumption and cognitive decline: focus on APOE ε4 carriers and women in the health and retirement study. Presented at: 2018 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference. July 22-26, 2018; Chicago, IL. Abstract 25498.