Study: Moderate Drinking Doesn’t Sharpen Thinking Skills

Having a drink or two a day may not help maintain a sharp mind as people age, according to a new report.

Reuters reported Nov. 16 that researchers from University College London studied the alcohol use; social, economic and physical conditions; and thinking skills of 1,985 men and women ages 60 to 74. Data on the 87 percent of participants who said they drank moderately or didn’t drink at all were analyzed in further detail.

Among other tests, participants were asked to say words that are pronounced differently than how they are spelled to test how well they remembered reading skills they had learned as children.

The supposed link between moderate drinking and greater thinking skills disappeared once researchers controlled for the subjects’ learned (experiential) intelligence and the fact that participants who were in better physical health drank more.

Researchers said that moderate drinkers likely have better mental skills as they get older because their superior social, economic, and educational status helped them improve their thinking skills throughout their lifetime, not because of drinking.

“In people who were not problem drinkers, higher alcohol intake was not associated with improved current cognition after controlling for premorbid intelligence and physical health,” the study concluded. “Our findings suggest that, despite previous suggestions, moderate alcohol consumption does not protect older people from cognitive decline.”

The study, which was led by Claudia Cooper, Ph.D., appeared in the November 2009 issue of the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.

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