Chronic heavy drinking is defined by the World Health Organization as consuming more than 60g of pure alcohol per day for men (around six or more standard drinks), and more than 40g per day for women (around four or more standard drinks). One standard drink contains 10 grams of alcohol.
The study, published Tuesday in the journal Lancet Public Health, looked at over 1 million adults released from French hospitals between 2008 and 2013 who were diagnosed with dementia, a clinical syndrome characterized by a progressive deterioration in cognitive ability. They excluded patients with diseases that could lead to rare dementia and patients with early-life mental disorders.
There are several types of dementia - Alzheimer's disease being the most common, followed by vascular dementia.
"At first glance, these findings might appear inconsistent with other reports, including some that made the news very recently, that low to moderate drinking is associated with better 'cognitive health.' These findings can be reconciled because there is a big difference between low to moderate drinking, and alcohol use disorder", explained Matt Field, professor of addiction at the University of Liverpool, who was not involved in the study. They says this could mean that the association between dementia and chronic heavy drinking may be underestimated.
One in 20 of those had early-onset. Of those, 35,034 cases of dementia were attributable to alcohol-related brain damage, and 52,625 cases had other alcohol use disorders.
The median age of dementia onset was 82 for men and 85 for women.
"There is a strong effect of large alcohol consumption and brain damage".
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But the advice is not straightforward because studies have also found that even in moderation, drinking alcohol could increase the risk of dementia.
"This study in no way suggests that moderate alcohol intake could cause early-onset dementia", said Doug Brown from the Alzheimer's Society in a statement.
What is alcohol use disorder?Among all men with dementia, the prevalence of alcohol use disorders climbed to 16.5%.
Results of the study also showed that men and women experienced dementia differently.
The main source of the research was the discharge records of the patients.
Researchers examining more than 57,000 cases of early-onset dementia in France found that well over half were either alcohol-related, or accompanied by an additional diagnosis of alcohol abuse. Using the French National Hospital Discharge database, they studied the prevalence of early-onset dementia and determined whether alcohol use disorders or other risk factors were associated with dementia onset. But the latest study emphasizes that escalating to heavy drinking habits can have detrimental consequences.
Numerous studies have indicated that excessive alcohol consumption can cause neurological problems over time.
There are lots of reasons why drinking too much alcohol on a regular basis is not a good idea.