Recently, the market research firm Nilsen released a survey indicating that the off-premise sale of alcohol has surged nationwide since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Though understandable, researchers have already begun animating the consequences of this rising trend.
New findings reported in JAMA Network Open hones in on the association between alcohol-induced loss of consciousness and overall alcohol consumption with risk for dementia.
The authors of the new study employed a massive study pool comprised of participants from the UK, France, Sweden, and Finland, to uncover all relevant factors.
More than 96, 000 respondents said that they experienced a loss of consciousness because of excessive alcohol consumption at some point, and roughly 10,000 did so within the last year.
“In this multicohort study of 131 415 adults, a 1.2-fold excess risk of dementia was associated with heavy vs moderate alcohol consumption. Those who reported having lost consciousness due to alcohol consumption, regardless of their overall weekly consumption, had a 2-fold increased risk of dementia compared with people who had not lost consciousness and were moderate drinkers,” the authors wrote in the new paper. “Evidence on alcohol consumption as a risk factor for dementia usually relates to overall consumption. The role of alcohol-induced loss of consciousness is uncertain.”
Is heavy weekly alcohol consumption associated with increased risk of future dementia?
The short answer is yes, but there are several things to consider in the analysis. For a start, this new report (as well as the reports that informed it) doesn’t account for the duration in which alcohol is consumed. In other words, excessive alcohol consumption could be marked via weekly, daily or even monthly intake.
In any case, a review of previously published research suggests that alcohol-induced loss of consciousness doubles the risk of developing dementia later in life.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns of the neurotoxic effects of alcohol-based on three parameters:Excessive drinking, binge drinking, heavy drinking, and any drinking by pregnant women or people younger than age 21.
“Ethanol is neurotoxic, crosses the blood-brain barrier to reach neurons directly, and, in high concentrations and with its metabolite acetaldehyde, can initiate pathologic processes leading to brain damage,” the authors continued. “Neurotoxic insults may be due to release of large amounts of glutamate, which overstimulates the brain and results in excitotoxic effects via excessive N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor activity, which damages or kills brain cells.”
Binge drinking specifically denotes four or more drinks during a single occasion for women, while the value is closer to five for men.
Heavy drinking for women is defined as consuming eight or more drinks per week and for men, this value is calculated at 15 or more drinks per week.
Heavy drinkers were about 1.2 times more likely to develop dementia later in life compared to moderate drinkers.
“Consumption of high quantities of alcohol in a short time can lead to neurotoxic blood levels of alcohol, although such episodes are not fully reflected in average consumption levels,” Mika Kivimaki from University College London explains in a media release. “Thus, both heavy and moderate levels of overall consumption may be combined with excessive drinking episodes leading to acute central nervous system effects, such as loss of consciousness.”
All-cause dementia risk was dramatically higher among those who got “blind-drunk” in the last 12 months. These also doubled their risk for early-onset dementia, late-onset dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease.
This outcome was consistent even after the authors controlled for gender and age.
“The findings of this study suggest that alcohol-induced loss of consciousness is a long-term risk factor for dementia among both heavy and moderate drinkers,” the authors concluded.