Alcohol Consumption, Aging And Cognitive Function

It has been pretty widely accepted that cognitive ability declines as we age. If you ask most people, including most doctors, if alcohol consumption is good for cognitive function, they’d likely say no. But are they right? Does alcohol consumption speed age-related cognitive decline?

As it turns out, the answer is no. At least that’s what one new study seems to indicate. In fact, this study says low-to-moderate consumption of alcohol by middle-aged and older adults may actually protect against cognitive decline as they age.


The study, undertaken by Ruiyuan Zhang, M.D. and a team from the University of Georgia College of Public Health showed better global cognition scores among middle-aged and older adults who engage in low-to-moderate alcohol consumption. The findings were published in JAMA Network Open.

They assessed the cognitive function of 19,887 people from 1996 through 2008. The mean age of the sample group was 61.8 years old and 60.1 percent were women.


The participants were grouped into two cognitive function trajectories for each of the measures assessed. The consistently low trajectory represented low cognitive scores during the period of the study, while the consistently high trajectory represented high cognitive scores.

Low-to-moderate drinking was defined as fewer than 8 drinks per week for women and fewer than 15 for men. This level of consumption showed significant association with a consistently high cognitive function trajectory and a lower degree and rate of cognitive decline. The low-to-moderate drinkers had higher scores for total cognitive function, word recall, vocabulary and mental status. This same group showed lower rates of annual decline in these same measures, as compared to their non-drinking peers.


There were some variables noted, however. Low-to-moderate drinking led to lower odds of having a consistently low trajectory for white participants than for black participants. For all participants, the researchers noted a U-shaped association between how much alcohol was consumed and all domains of cognitive function. The optimal dose was 10 to 14 drinks per week.

“Our study contributed further evidence that among a nationally representative sample of middle-aged or older adults, low-to-moderate drinking was associated with the protection of cognitive functions that may decrease with age,” the authors write.


I have advised my clients for many years that if they enjoy an adult beverage occasionally, they should continue to do so, unless advised otherwise for physical health reasons. They may now have another solid reason to enjoy that cocktail!

Keep the faith and keep after it!

Related Content –
Risk Factors And Prevention Of Substance Abuse Disorder
A Gateway Drug For Higher Teen Alcohol Consumption
Stress In Older Adults During COVID-19 Coronavirus Lockdowns

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