The latest findings on drinking and dementia are causing quite a buzz

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John O'Connor
John O'Connor

Here's the problem I have with so many new studies: It seems that every one of them is soon offset by a different investigation that serves up a very different message.

Last month, findings revealed at the American Association for the Advancement of Science's annual conference asserted that moderate drinking may lead to a longer life. In fact, a person's chance of early death could be decreased by 18% by consuming about two glasses of wine or beer a day, the authors found. Guess we could call this a case study.

Now before your community makes happy hour an all-day event, consider this: A different investigation that encompasses more than 1 million people concludes that heavy alcohol use is the largest modifiable risk factor for dementia, especially early-onset forms of the disease. These latter findings appear in the Lancet Public Health.

So what are we to take away from these investigations? That drinking alcohol is good, but only to a certain point? And what is that certain point? Or does it mean that those prone to excessive alcohol consumption may be, among other things, opening up the dementia floodgates? Some of this? All of this?

Who knows?

My advice is this: Pay less attention to these breathless pronouncements and more to the Greek poet Hesiod. Around 700 BC, he called for moderation in all things.

I'll drink to that vintage insight. But on second thought, better make that beverage non-alcoholic.

John O'Connor is editorial director of McKnight's Senior Living. Email him at


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