Daniel Lemire's blog

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Science and Technology links (September 18th 2021)

2 thoughts on “Science and Technology links (September 18th 2021)”

  1. Having read the detail on the abstinence from alcohol association with dementia, it is clear from the results that it is not the absence or presence of alcohol that is a factor.

    In the study, the only people who were at measurably higher risk were those who had (at some point in their lives) elected to STOP drinking. Those who are lifetime abstainers were not at increased risk of dementia.

    In my (admittedly limited) experience, a significant percentage of people who stop drinking and become abstinent are people who have (or believe they have) abused alcohol. So what this study may be really indicating, is that a history of alcohol abuse is a correlate for dementia. Which makes perfect sense, since obviously alcohol abuse can directly induce forms of dementia, and is know to damage the brain.

    The unfortunate message that one may get by reading study headlines, is that people who drink should carry on drinking. This may give yet another excuse for problem drinkers to carry on doing the very thing that increases their risk of dementia.

    1. I’m not advocating that people who do not drink start drinking, but I disagree with your interpretation of the manuscript.

      I believe that they do mean to say that moderate drinkers have the lowest risks. See the figures at the end of the manuscript.

      From the abstract…

      When comparing lifetime abstainers and former drinkers there were no consistent differences in dementia risk.


      In the combined sample, when compared with occasional drinkers (<1.3g/day), the risk for dementia was higher for current abstainers and lower for moderate drinkers.

      Note: this is not a medical recommendation to start drinking and I am sure that the authors would agree that this is not what they are suggesting. Even if the results held up entirely, it would not mean that if you start drinking, you will end up having a better health. It is not implied here.