To better understand the association of alcohol intake with cognitively healthy longevity (CHL), we explored the association between amount and frequency of alcohol intake and CHL among 1,344 older community-dwelling adults. Alcohol intake was assessed by questionnaire in 1984-1987. Cognitive function was assessed in approximate four-year intervals between 1988 and 2009. Multinomial logistic regression, adjusting for multiple lifestyle and health factors, was used to examine the association between alcohol consumption and CHL (living to age 85 without cognitive impairment), survival to age 85 with cognitive impairment (MMSE score >1.5 standard deviations below expectation for age, sex, and education), or death before age 85. Most participants (88%) reported some current alcohol intake; 49% reported a moderate amount of alcohol intake, and 48% reported drinking near-daily. Relative to nondrinkers, moderate and heavy drinkers (up to 3 drinks/day for women and for men 65 years and older, up to 4 drinks/day for men under 65 years) had significantly higher adjusted odds of survival to age 85 without cognitive impairment (p's < 0.05). Near-daily drinkers had 2-3 fold higher adjusted odds of CHL versus living to at least age 85 with cognitive impairment (odds ratio (OR) = 2.06; 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.21, 3.49) or death before 85 (OR = 3.24; 95% CI: 1.92, 5.46). Although excessive drinking has negative health consequences, these results suggest that regular, moderate drinking may play a role in cognitively healthy longevity.

Published in General Health

Understanding the relationship between memory function and lifestyle offers great opportunities for promoting beneficial lifestyle choices to foster healthy cognitive aging and for the development of intervention programs for older adults. We studied a cohort of older adults (age 65 and older) enrolled in the Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam, an ongoing prospective population-based research project. A total of 1,966 men and women participated in an episodic memory test every 3 years over a period of 14 years. Lifestyle habits were repeatedly assessed using self-report measures. Physical activity, light-to-moderate alcohol consumption, difficulties staying asleep, and social engagement were associated with better memory function over the course of 14 years. In contrast, smoking and long sleep duration were associated with worse memory function. These findings suggest that certain lifestyle factors can have long-term protective or harmful effects on memory function in aging individuals.

Published in General Health

Introduction: Adolescence and young adulthood are periods of continued biological and psychosocial maturation. Thus, there may be deleterious effects of consuming large quantities of alcohol on neural development and associated cognition during this time. The purpose of this mini review is to highlight neuroimaging research that has specifically examined the effects of binge and heavy drinking on adolescent and young adult brain structure and function.

Methods: We review cross-sectional and longitudinal studies of young binge and heavy drinkers that have examined brain structure (e.g., gray and white matter volume, cortical thickness, white matter microstructure) and investigated brain response using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

Results: Binge and heavy-drinking adolescents and young adults have systematically thinner and lower volume in prefrontal cortex and cerebellar regions, and attenuated white matter development. They also show elevated brain activity in fronto-parietal regions during working memory, verbal learning, and inhibitory control tasks. In response to alcohol cues, relative to controls or light-drinking individuals, binge and heavy drinkers show increased neural response mainly in mesocorticolimbic regions, including the striatum, anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), hippocampus, and amygdala. Mixed findings are present in risky decision-making tasks, which could be due to large variation in task design and analysis.

Conclusions: These findings suggest altered neural structure and activity in binge and heavy-drinking youth may be related to the neurotoxic effects of consuming alcohol in large quantities during a highly plastic neurodevelopmental period, which could result in neural reorganization, and increased risk for developing an alcohol use disorder (AUD).

Published in Drinking Patterns

Moderate alcohol consumption in patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is common, yet the effects on cardiovascular and liver health are unclear. Moderate alcohol use is associated with improved insulin sensitivity and decreased cardiovascular mortality in the general population, but whether similar benefits would be observed in persons with NAFLD remains largely unstudied. There is significant overlap in the pathogenesis of alcoholic liver disease (ALD) and NAFLD, although studies of ALD have focused on pathological alcohol intake and few mechanistic studies of moderate alcohol use in NAFLD exist. We undertook a critical review of the effect of moderate alcohol use on cardiovascular and liver disease in patients with NAFLD. A total of seven observational studies met the criteria for inclusion (one for cardiovascular endpoints and six for liver endpoints). Insufficient studies have assessed the association of moderate alcohol use with cardiovascular outcomes. There was a positive association between moderate alcohol use and decreased NASH and fibrosis; however, heavy episodic drinking may accelerate fibrosis progression and moderate alcohol use may increase the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma in patients with advanced fibrosis. Significant methodological limitations were present, including incomplete adjustment for confounding factors and failure to measure lifetime use or the pattern of alcohol intake. Thus, a strong recommendation of benefit of moderate alcohol use in NAFLD cannot be made. There remains a need for additional high-quality longitudinal studies that evaluate both cardiovascular and liver outcomes among NAFLD patients with moderate or lesser degrees of alcohol use. (Hepatology 2017;65:2090-2099).

Published in Liver Disease
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The authors have taken reasonable care in ensuring the accuracy of the information herein at the time of publication and are not responsible for any errors or omissions. Read more on our disclaimer.