Reducing Alcohol Consumption to Moderate Levels Associated with Reduced Dementia Risk


New research was found on alcohol consumption as a modifiable risk factor in dementia, in a study out of South Korea.

Dong Wook Shin, MD, DrPH

Dong Wook Shin, MD, DrPH

Decreased dementia risk was found to be associated with maintaining mild-to-moderate alcohol consumption or reducing alcohol consumption to a moderate level, according to recent findings.1

This research was conducted to address the needs of the over 57 million people around the world with dementia by assessing the potentially modifiable risk factors of the condition.

The study was authored by Dong Wook Shin, MD, DrPH, from Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine’s Department of Family Medicine/Supportive Care Center at the Samsung Medical Center in South Korea.

“Notably, to our knowledge, our study is the first to use the sustainers at the same level of alcohol consumption, in addition to the abstainers, as a reference group within each baseline alcohol consumption level, which enables more comprehensive understanding on the association between changes in the pattern of alcohol consumption and risk of dementia,” Shin and colleagues wrote.

Background and Research

The investigators used a retrospective, cohort study and gathered the requisite data through the use of the Korean National Health Insurance Service database from December of 2018 to December of 2021.

The major endpoints assessed by the research team were new diagnoses of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), vascular dementia (VaD), or other related dementias.

The team used a categorization system do assess alcohol consumption for the study participants, with levels being listed on the self-reported questionnaires given to the cohort as the following:

  • None (0 g of alcohol daily)
  • Mild consumption (<15 g of alcohol daily)
  • Moderate consumption (15 to 29.9 g daily)
  • Heavy consumption (≥30 g daily)

The team assessed the data of participants who were ages 40 years and older and had been given 2 national health examinations in 2009 and then 2011, with a subgroup of people who took part in 3 consecutive health examinations to determine the results of more changes in drinking levels.

Study Findings

The investigators concluded that the threshold of alcohol consumption for reducing someone’s dementia risk is lower, given that decreased risk had an association with participants continuing mild-to-moderate consumption, lowering consumption level from heavy to moderate, and initiating mild alcohol consumption.

They determined that of the 3,933,382 study participants at a mean follow-up of 6.3 years, there was a total of 100,282 all-cause dementia cases. Specifically, they reported 79,982 AD cases and 11,085 VaD cases.

Compared to those who sustained their consumption levels, those who reduced their consumption from heavy to moderate levels (aHR, 0.92; 95% CI, 0.86 to 0.99) and those with initiation of mild alcohol consumption (aHR, 0.93; 95% CI, 0.90 to 0.96) had an association with a decreased risk of all dementia types.

The investigators added that those who increased consumption or quit entirely showed an increased overall risk of dementia compared with sustainers.

“In conclusion, our analyses indicate that maintaining mild to moderate alcohol consumption is associated with a decreased risk of dementia, whereas maintaining heavy drinking is associated with an increased risk of dementia,” they wrote.


  1. Jeon KH, Han K, Jeong S, et al. Changes in Alcohol Consumption and Risk of Dementia in a Nationwide Cohort in South Korea. JAMA Netw Open. 2023;6(2):e2254771. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.54771.
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