Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

50+: Live Better, Longer

Font Size

Moderate Drinking May Cut Dementia Risk

Study Shows Alcohol Has Potential Benefits in Preventing Dementia
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

July 13, 2009 (Vienna, Austria) -- A drink or two a day may help to protect older people from developing dementia.

But once people 75 and older already have mild cognitive impairment, or have been diagnosed with memory loss, any amount of alcohol accelerates the rate of memory decline, says researcher Kaycee Sink, MD, of the Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Many studies have shown that moderate alcohol intake, especially wine, is associated with a lower risk of dementia in healthy middle-aged adults. But it was not known whether this association is also true for older adults or for those with mild cognitive impairment, Sink tells WebMD.

For the new study, the researchers followed 3,069 people 75 and older for six years. At the start of the study, 482 of them had been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment.

The study showed that people who drank one to two drinks a day were 37% less likely to develop dementia than teetotalers. It didn't matter whether their drink of choice was wine, beer, or hard liquor.

The reduction in risk is similar to that associated with exercising three times a week or more, Sink says.

Among people who had mild cognitive impairment at the start of the study, those who drank more than two drinks a day were nearly twice as likely to develop dementia, compared with nondrinkers.

The analysis took into account smoking, education, depression, and other factors that can affect the risk of dementia.

The findings were presented at the Alzheimer's Association 2009 International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease.

To Drink or Not to Drink

Sink says no one should start imbibing in an effort to ward off dementia. "But older adults who are already drinking moderately don't necessarily need to cut back if they're cognitively normal," she says.

The study doesn't prove cause and effect. It could be alcohol itself or some other lifestyle factor shared by moderate drinkers that is responsible for the protective effect, Sink says.

But other research has suggested moderate drinking might protect against dementia by increasing levels of good cholesterol and preventing blood platelets from sticking together. It may also stimulate the release of acetylcholine, a chemical that's important for memory, Sink says.

Today on WebMD

Eating for a longer, healthier life.
woman biking
How to stay vital in your 50s and beyond.
womans finger tied with string
Learn how we remember, and why we forget.
man reviewing building plans
Do you know how to stay healthy as you age?
fast healthy snack ideas
how healthy is your mouth
dog on couch
doctor holding syringe
champagne toast
Two women wearing white leotards back to back
Man feeding woman
two senior women laughing