Scientists tracked 9,087 British civil servants aged between 35 and 55 in 1985, who had signed up to the Whitehall II Study, a long-term investigation into how work, stress, and lifestyle had an impact on an individual's health.
Alcohol consumption trajectories between 1985 and 2004 were also used to examine the association of long term alcohol consumption and risk of dementia from midlife to early old age. Researchers traced participants' health records for dementia using the databases of the national hospital episode statistics, the Mental Health Services Data Set, and the mortality register.
They were then monitored for, on average, another 23 years. During this time dementia was diagnosed in 397 participants. In fact, researchers found those who abstain from alcohol are 45 percent more likely to develop dementia than those who drink about half a bottle of wine per week.
Among excessive drinkers, defined as those who consumed more than 14 units per week, experts found a heightened risk of dementia that increased the more a person drank, noting that with every seven-unit-per-week increase there was a 17% rise in dementia risk.More news: Russell on top on final day of Hungaroring test
The UK chief medical officer's guidance states that men and women should drink no more than 14 units of alcohol each week. While this study does throw up questions about alcohol and dementia, there could be other risk factors at play.
Moreover, the study showed that "excess risk of dementia in abstainers was attributable to the greater risk of cardiometabolic disease" for middle-aged non-drinkers.
Long-term abstainers and those who reported a decrease in alcohol consumption also appeared to have an increased risk. In moderation, of course, unless you want to increase your chances of developing dementia.
However, the researchers said that this is an observational study, so no firm conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect, and they cannot rule out the possibility that some of the risk may be due to unmeasured factors.More news: Temperatures staying very high in red-hot Europe
'These results suggest that abstention and excessive alcohol consumption are associated with an increased risk of dementia, although the underlying mechanisms are likely to be different in the two groups, ' the authors wrote.
"This study is important since it fills gaps in knowledge, but we should remain cautious and not change current recommendations on alcohol use based exclusively on epidemiological studies", according to the paper.
In the case of wine, earlier studies have suggested that so-called polyphenolic compounds may offer some protection to neural networks and blood vessels, but such findings remain controversial.More news: Deadly California blaze spawned destructive fire tornado