Alcohol and the amount people drink is the frequent focus of medical studies. However, studying alcohol consumption often results in mixed findings. For example, while drinking too much alcohol can result in liver disease and high blood pressure, other studies have shown that a glass of beer or wine a day can help people live longer. [Related reading: Drinking alcohol while breastfeeding: new study shows possible child cognitive development impact] Now a new study suggests people who abstain from alcohol in middle age may have a heightened risk of dementia later in life. The long-term study, which tracked the health of more than 9,000 civil servants in London, found that middle-aged people who drank over the recommended alcohol limit each week and those who abstained completely were more likely to develop dementia. Specifically, abstinence in midlife was associated with a 45% greater risk of developing dementia compare to people who drank between one and 14 units of alcohol per week. But before you reach for a glass of wine, it should be noted that early life alcohol consumption was not taken into account for the study. People who are teetotal in midlife may have a history of heavy alcohol consumption in their younger years. Indeed, Dr Sara Imarisio, the head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “As this study only looked at people’s drinking in midlife, we don’t know about their drinking habits earlier in adulthood, and it is possible that this may contribute to their later life dementia risk.” The results of the study were recently published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).
Some new mothers drink alcohol while they are breastfeeding and think nothing of it. But a new study by the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests they could be impacting their baby’s cognitive abilities. Specifically, the study found that children who were exposed to alcohol through their mothers’ breast milk didn’t perform as well on reasoning tests at ages 6 and 7 as their peers who weren’t exposed to any alcohol. For the study, researchers analysed data on 5,107 infants from Growing Up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children. Mothers were asked about their alcohol and tobacco use while breastfeeding, with the ultimate aim being to see if either affected children’s cognitive development. Not only were the test scores of children exposed to alcohol lower, they were lowest for those whose mothers drank the most. However, the researchers found no link between smoking while breastfeeding and test scores. While the researchers were not able to measure the cognitive reductions in a child once they reached 10 or 11, Louse Gibson, a co-author of the study, said that “doesn’t mean that the child has grown out of it, or that the effects of the mother’s alcohol consumption aren’t there anymore.” [Recommended reading: Bottle feeding is a woman’s right, midwives advised]