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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Health Note: Healthy Drinking

Air Date: Week of January 25, 2002

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Living on Earth’s Diane Toomey reports on a new finding that moderate drinking may ward off some forms of dementia.


CURWOOD: Coming up, city schools in Austin, Texas, confront a clear and present danger: indoor air pollution. First, this Environmental Health Note from Diane Toomey.

TOOMEY: It's known that light to moderate alcohol consumption can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. But vascular disease is also associated with cognitive impairment and dementia. So researchers in the Netherlands wanted to see if moderate drinking might also protect against these conditions. Over the course of six years, they followed 8,000 people aged 55 or older who showed no signs of dementia. Turns out, almost 200 of these people developed various forms of dementia, and the average alcohol consumption of this group was about one-third of one drink a day. Then researchers turned to the people who did not develop dementia. When they took into account age, smoking habits, weight and other factors, they found that light to moderate drinking--in this case, one to three drinks a day--reduced the risk of dementia by about 40 percent. What's more, when researchers looked at the risk of developing vascular dementia--that is, dementia caused when areas of the brain are deprived of oxygen due to strokes--moderate alcohol consumption reduced that risk by a full 70 percent. But the researchers also note there was no protective effect against dementia in people who consumed more than three drinks a day. That's this week's Health Note, I'm Diane Toomey.

CURWOOD: And you're listening to Living on Earth.

[CUTAWAY 1 MUSIC: Afro Celt Sound System, "Riding the Waves", VOLUME 2: RELEASE (RealWorld - 1999)]



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