Moderate alcohol use and cognitive function in the Guangzhou Biobank Cohort study

Ann Epidemiol. 2010 Dec;20(12):873-82. doi: 10.1016/j.annepidem.2010.06.005. Epub 2010 Aug 12.


Purpose: Observational studies in Western settings show moderate alcohol use associated with better cognitive function, but they are vulnerable to contextual bias. Evidence from non-Western settings may be useful to verify causality. We examined such association in southern China where alcohol use is low.

Methods: We used multivariable linear regression in cross-sectional data from the Guangzhou Biobank Cohort Study to assess sex-stratified associations of alcohol use (never, occasional, moderate, heavy and former drinker) with delayed 10-word recall score for all 3 phases (N = 28,537) and Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) score in phase 3 (N = 9,571).

Results: Delayed 10-word recall scores were higher in moderate drinkers compared with never drinkers among men (0.30 words, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.18 to 0.42) but not women (0.02; 95% CI: -0.12 to 0.17), adjusted for sociodemographic factors. Occasional alcohol users also had higher 10-word recall scores among men (0.27; 95% CI: 0.18 to 0.37) and women (0.30; 95% CI: 0.23 to 0.37). These estimates were little altered by further adjustment for cardiovascular risk factors. Results for MMSE scores were similar.

Conclusions: Alcohol may not drive the association between moderate use and better cognitive function, which instead may be due to confounding by general moderation in lifestyle.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology*
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology*
  • China / epidemiology
  • Cognition*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Confounding Factors, Epidemiologic
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Mental Recall*
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychological Tests
  • Sex Distribution