(HealthDay News) – For middle-aged men, heavy alcohol consumption (≥36g/day) is associated with faster cognitive decline in all cognitive domains, compared with light-to-moderate alcohol consumption, according to a study published online Jan. 15 in Neurology.

Séverine Sabia, PhD, from University College London, and colleagues used data from 5,054 men and 2,099 women from the Whitehall II cohort study (mean age, 56 years) to examine the correlation between alcohol consumption in midlife and subsequent cognitive decline. Cognitive assessments were conducted in 1997–1999, 2002–2004, and 2007–2009. Alcohol consumption was evaluated three times in the 10 years preceding the first cognitive assessment.

The researchers observed no differences in cognitive decline among alcohol abstainers, quitters, and light or moderate alcohol drinking males (<20g/day). However, for men, faster decline was seen in all cognitive domains for alcohol consumption of ≥36g/day vs. 0.1–19.9g/day (mean difference in 10-year decline in global cognitive score, -0.1; executive function, -0.06; and memory -0.16). Among women, 10-year abstainers showed faster decline in the global cognitive score and executive function compared with those drinking 0.1–9.9g/day (-0.21 and -0.17, respectively).

“Our findings are in agreement with previous studies showing that moderate alcohol consumption is probably not deleterious for cognitive outcomes, but they also show that heavy alcohol consumption in midlife is likely to be harmful for cognitive aging, at least in men,” the authors write.

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