Background: Recent data demonstrate that moderate consumption of alcohol (13-52 grams of ethanol per day) may be beneficial to cognitive functioning among older adults.
Methods: Longitudinal growth curve analyses controlling for baseline age, body mass index (BMI), education/income, migrant status, smoking, history of diagnosed stroke, hypertension, coronary heart disease (CHD), depression, diabetes and stroke (time-varying) were used to examine the relationship between alcohol consumption, gender and cognitive performance over an 8-year follow-up period. The sample included 1624 Japanese American community-dwelling adults aged 65 and older who were cognitively intact at baseline and participated in at least one follow-up examination. Cognitive performance was measured using the Cognitive Abilities Screening Instrument (CASI; 0-100 point scale), a global test of cognitive function.
Results: Current consumers (n = 480) scored significantly (p < 0.05) higher on CASI (mean rate of change-1.22 CASI units) over the 8-year follow-up period than past consumers or abstainers (n = 1144; mean rate of change-3.77 CASI units). There was no significant main effect for gender, or an alcohol and gender interaction.
Conclusions: This study provides further support regarding the beneficial effects of moderate alcohol consumption on cognitive performance over time. Observed benefits were not modified by gender. Future studies need to determine whether alcohol preserves cognition directly or whether other factors such as physiology or cultural drinking practices are driving the observed association.