Alcohol use and dementia: a systematic scoping review

Alzheimers Res Ther. 2019 Jan 5;11(1):1. doi: 10.1186/s13195-018-0453-0.


Background: Alcohol use has been identified as a risk factor for dementia and cognitive decline. However, some patterns of drinking have been associated with beneficial effects.

Methods and results: To clarify the relationship between alcohol use and dementia, we conducted a scoping review based on a systematic search of systematic reviews published from January 2000 to October 2017 by using Medline, Embase, and PsycINFO. Overall, 28 systematic reviews were identified: 20 on the associations between the level of alcohol use and the incidence of cognitive impairment/dementia, six on the associations between dimensions of alcohol use and specific brain functions, and two on induced dementias. Although causality could not be established, light to moderate alcohol use in middle to late adulthood was associated with a decreased risk of cognitive impairment and dementia. Heavy alcohol use was associated with changes in brain structures, cognitive impairments, and an increased risk of all types of dementia.

Conclusion: Reducing heavy alcohol use may be an effective dementia prevention strategy.

Keywords: Alcohol; Alzheimer’s disease; Brain function; Brain volumetrics; Cognition; Dementia; Risk; Systematic review; Vascular dementia.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects*
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology*
  • Alcohol Drinking / trends
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / chemically induced
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / diagnostic imaging
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / psychology
  • Dementia / chemically induced*
  • Dementia / diagnostic imaging
  • Dementia / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic
  • Systematic Reviews as Topic