Friday, August 26, 2011

One or two drinks a day 'can protect against dementia' especially in older people

This may be so but it may also show (for instance) that moderate drinkers are more sociable and that sociable people are less likely to get dementia

Drinking could reduce the risk of dementia, especially in older people, according to two new reviews. Experts claim social drinkers may be less likely to suffer mental decline, with a 23 per cent reduction in risk.

US researchers claim middle-aged and older adults who drink moderate amounts – around one to two drinks a day – get protection against suffering Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

An analysis of 143 studies by Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine researchers looked at the effect of drinking on 365,000 participants. It found moderate drinkers were 23 per cent less likely to develop cognitive impairment or dementia. Wine was more beneficial than beer, and there was no difference in the effects for men and women.

But heavy drinking – defined as more than three to five drinks a day – was linked to dementia, although the finding was not statistically significant.

The analysis calculated the risk ratio between drinkers and non-drinkers of developing dementia in studies dating back to 1977.

Researcher Professor Edward Neafsey said ‘We don’t recommend non-drinkers start drinking. But moderate drinking – if it is truly moderate – can be beneficial.’

It is unknown why moderate drinking can have a beneficial effect, but the well-known benefits of alcohol on the heart may result in better blood flow in the brain and mental functioning.

Another explanation is ‘sick quitters’, which means that the comparison group of non-drinkers who do not get mental protection also contains heavy drinkers who quit after damaging their brain cells. But the researchers accounted for this, by looking at studies which excluded former heavy drinkers, and they found the benefits of moderate drinking still held.

The researchers, who published their findings in the journal Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, said small amounts of alcohol may make brain cells more ‘fit’. Alcohol in moderate amounts stresses cells and thus toughens them up to cope with major stresses that might eventually lead to dementia.

However, the researchers say other things also reduce the risk of dementia such as exercise, education and a Mediterranean diet high in fruits, vegetables, cereals, beans, nuts and seeds.

Another review by a panel backed by the drinks industry concludes that older people have most to gain from regular drinking, as long as it isn’t heavy consumption.

But light to moderate drinking does not harm the brainpower of younger people, says the review by the International Scientific Forum on Alcohol Research. It analysed 74 studies, involving more than 250,000 people, that investigated the potential effect of alcohol on mental functions.

These studies were published mainly since 1998, with most people taking part over the age of 55 years. Almost three-quarters were aged 65 and over. Checks for mental impairment and dementia were made using well established questionnaires and other techniques.

The review ‘overwhelmingly found that moderate drinking either reduced or had no effect on the risk of dementia or cognitive impairment’.

It said ‘Overall, light to moderate drinking does not appear to impair cognition in younger subjects and actually seems to reduce the risk of dementia and cognitive decline in older subjects.’

Heavy drinking was linked to higher risk for brain damage, although it was not statistically significant.

Drinking wine was found to be better for the brain than beer or spirits, but the review sounded a note of caution saying there were relatively few studies that noted the type of beverage and some specifically stated there was no difference.


Social networking increases risk of teen drug abuse: study

This may simply show that drug dependant kids are also more Facebook dependant. The direction of cause is entirely speculative

Time spent social networking increases the risk of teens smoking, drinking and using drugs, according to a national survey of American attitudes on substance abuse.

On a typical day, 70 per cent of teens ages 12 to 17 - 17 million teenagers - spend from a minute to hours on Facebook, Myspace and other social networking sites, according to The National Centre on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University.

But for this same age bracket, social-network-savvy teens are five times more likely to use tobacco; three times more likely to use alcohol; and twice as likely to use marijuana than teens who do not spend any of their day on social networking sites.
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"The results are profoundly troubling ... the anything goes, free-for-all world of internet expression, suggestive television programing and what-the-hell attitudes put teens at sharply increased risk of substance abuse," CASA Founder and Chairman Joseph Califano Jr said in a statement on Wednesday.

Knowledge Networks surveyed 1037 teens ages 12 to 17 and 528 parents of these teens over the internet. QEV Analytics conducted the annual telephone survey of 1006 teens 12 to 17, asking questions CASA has used to track trends.

Results revealed that half of teens who spend any time social networking in a given day have seen pictures of kids "drunk, passed out, or using drugs on these sites".

But even beyond the daily teen social networkers, 14 per cent of teens who reported spending no time on such sites in a given day said they have seen pictures of drunk, passed out, or drug-using kids on the sites.

Teens who had seen such pictures were four times likelier to be able to get marijuana, three times likelier to be able to get prescription drugs without a prescription, and twice as likely to be able to get alcohol in a day at most.

Teens who had seen such pictures were also more than twice as likely to think they would try drugs in the future, and much more likely to have friends who used illegal drugs.

"Especially troubling - and alarming - are that almost half of the teens who have seen pictures ... first saw such pictures when they were 13 years of age or younger," the report said. "These facts alone should strike Facebook fear into the hearts of parents of young children."

But the surveys, which also questioned adults, found that nine of 10 parents do not think teens spending time social networking are any more likely to drink or use drugs.

Only 64 per cent of parents said they monitor their child's social networking page.

The authors of the report called for parents - still the greatest influence on a teen's decision whether to smoke, drink, or use drugs - to present a consistent and unified front against substance abuse. "In the cultural seas into which we toss our teens, parents are essential to preventing their substance abuse."

The report also urged operators of social networking sites to curb such images and deny use to adolescents who post them. "Continuing to provide the electronic vehicle for transmitting such images constitutes electronic child abuse," it said.


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