Can Drinking Alcohol Lead to Dementia?

  • Consuming alcohol affects your brain function, that’s a fact.
  • Factors affecting your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease include the amount of alcohol you consume and your genes.
  • People who don’t drink alcohol are at higher risk of developing cognitive impairment than those who are light to moderate drinkers.

We often hear from the news about the health benefits of consuming alcoholic drinks and the harm of misusing it. Now let us see what reports say about the effects of alcohol on brain function, specifically how it affects your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. 

Excessive Alcohol Consumption

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Several research and studies have proved how high consumption of alcohol increases the risk of developing dementia. About 10% of all dementia cases are caused by alcohol-related brain damage. 

Excessive alcohol drinkers who underwent brain imaging tests show results similar to those who have Alzheimer’s disease, such as atrophy, loss of white matter, and decreased neurons. 

The most common brain damage experienced by high alcohol drinkers includes Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome, Dementia, Mild Cognitive Impairment, Executive Functioning Impairment, Episodic Memory Decline, and Visuospatial Impairment. While these impairments may develop over time, high alcohol consumption can also result in blackouts or immediate memory loss.

One study discovered that the high consumption of alcohol as a late teenager puts men at higher risk of developing cognitive impairments. Another study reported that 57% of young-onset dementia is linked to excessive alcohol consumption. 

Light to Moderate Alcohol Consumption

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For women, consuming one alcoholic drink per day is considered moderate drinking. For men, it’s two a day. If you drink less than this, you are considered a light drinker.

One large study of people over 75 years old found that light to moderate drinking shows a lower risk of cognitive impairment. 

Meanwhile, another study showed that women over the age of 90 who reduced their alcohol consumption had an increased development of mild cognitive impairment and dementia.

Another study showed that light to moderate alcohol drinkers had a lower chance of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) advancing into full dementia compared to those who never drank alcohol. Meanwhile, heavy drinkers were most at risk of developing dementia.

APOE-ε4 Carriers

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One research identified people with APOE-ε4 gene at an increased risk of cognitive impairment, while light to moderate drinkers who did are not APOE-ε4 carriers showed increased learning ability and memory.

How the Type of Alcohol You Consume Affects You

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Multiple studies have shown varying results on how the type of alcohol you consume affects your risk of having cognitive impairment. Several studies found that wine benefits people’s memory and cognitive ability, while other studies showed that wine affects cognition the same way as beer and liquor.

Who Should Abstain from Drinking Alcohol?

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Abstain from drinking alcohol if you are under the following conditions:

  • Alcoholism
  • Wernicke-Korakoff syndrome
  • Taking medications that could adversely combine with alcohol
  • Liver disease and pancreatitis
  • Not of legal age
  • Pregnant or attempting to be pregnant
  • A vehicle operator or someone who operates complex tasks

Several studies proved that drinking alcohol harms health in other ways, so it’s best to consult your doctor about alcohol consumption.


While research suggests that light to moderate alcohol consumption may decrease the risk of dementia, it’s best to practice caution to avoid alcohol abuse and dependence.

Source: Very Well Health

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