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Alcohol Not Tied Directly to Mental Impairment for Older Men

Update Date: Feb 20, 2014 03:45 PM EST

Alcohol consumption has been known to negatively affect physical and mental health over time. Despite the evidence that excessive alcohol consumption can hinder cognitive functions, a new study is reporting that alcohol consumption, regardless of how much, is not directly tied to cognitive impairment for older men.

"Heavy alcohol consumption is known to be detrimental to health, so these results were counter intuitive," study researcher and professor Osvaldo Almeida, research director at the University of Western Australia's Center for Health and Aging said according to Medical Xpress.

For this study, the researchers examined the genetic data on 3,542 male participants between the ages of 65 and 83. The researchers used a study design called Mendelian randomization, which factors people's genetic information into traditional epidemiologic methods. They examined a gene that has been tied to the body's ability to metabolize alcohol. The researchers had collected data on the alcohol consumption within the past year. The team then divided the people into two groups, which were occasional drinkers or regular drinkers. People who drank more than 35 standard drinks were considered to have an alcohol abuse problem

The researchers measured cognitive impairment with a validated scale after six years. Cognitive impairment was defined as a reduction in the brain's processing speed and efficiency, and memory. Based from the data, the researchers were able to conclude that alcohol consumption was not tied to cognitive impairment for older men.

"Our results are consistent with the possibility, but do not prove, that regular moderate drinking decreases the risk of cognitive impairment in older men," the authors wrote.

The study was published in Neurology.

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