Teetotallers, like big drinkers, more prone to dementia: study

In this March 23, 2017 photo provided by the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Dr. Nir Lipsman points to a brain scan of Alzheimer patient Rick Karr during an experimental procedure at the facility in Toronto, Canada. (AP)
Updated 02 August 2018
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Teetotallers, like big drinkers, more prone to dementia: study

  • Alcohol intake of participants was monitored regularly for two decades, and hospital records were examined for signs of heart and alcohol-related disease
  • Chronic heavy drinking is a major risk factor for all types of dementia, especially early onset of the disease

PARIS: People who have sworn off alcohol for decades or longer run a higher risk of dementia late in life than moderate drinkers, according to a study published Wednesday.
Long-term teetotallers were roughly 50 percent more likely to suffer Alzheimers or another form of neurodegenerative disease, scientists reported in the BMJ, a medical journal.
With heavy drinking, however, dementia became even more prevalent, though for different reasons.
Unlike earlier research, the study did not find a link between abstinence and a shorter life expectancy, as compared to occasional drinkers.
The results were based on a review of medical records rather than the more scientifically rigorous clinical trials used to assess new drugs, and the number of cases examined was relatively small.
But the startling results are robust, and should prompt government-funded trials to assess “the possible protective effect of light-to-moderate alcohol use on risk of dementia,” commented Sevil Yasar, an associate professor at the John Hopkins School of Medicine who was not involved in the study.
Worldwide, about seven percent of people over 65 suffer from some form of dementia, a percentage that rises to 40 percent above the age of 85. The number of sufferers is expected to triple by 2050.
The research, led by Severine Sabia at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research, also found that — among moderate drinkers — wine consumption correlated with a lower risk of dementia than beer or spirits, such as whiskey, gin or vodka.
“Light-to-moderate” drinking was defined, during middle age, as one-to-14 drinks per week, corresponding to the maximum limit recommended for both men and women in Britain.
The 14-drink-per-week maximum — similar to guidelines in other countries — is the equivalent of six medium (175-milliliter) glasses wine at 13 percent alcohol, six pints of four-percent beer, or 14 25-ml shots of 40-degree spirits.
The study was not set up to explain why non-drinkers might be more prone to cognitive decline, but the findings offered possible clues.

“Some of the excess risk of dementia in abstainers was explained by great risk of cardiometric disease,” such as stroke, coronary hear disease and diabetes, Sabia and her team concluded.
Non-drinkers canvassed were more likely to be burdened with lifestyle diseases, but the link with dementia held true even after these health problems were taken into account, they reported.
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.
The findings are based on health records — part of the Whitehall II study on long-term health — for more than 9,000 British civil servants who were 35 to 55 years old in 1985.
Alcohol intake of participants was monitored regularly for two decades, and hospital records were examined for signs of heart and alcohol-related disease.
A total of nearly 400 dementia cases — with onset occurring, on average, at age 76 — were reported.
The study also confirmed that heavy drinking is strongly linked to dementia, with a 17-percent increase in risk for each addition seven drinks per week.
Chronic heavy drinking is a major risk factor for all types of dementia, especially early onset of the disease, research published earlier this year found.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines “chronic heavy drinking” as more than 60 grams of pure alcohol — six or more standard drinks — a day for men, and in excess of 40 grams per day for women.
The new findings “should not motivate people who do not drink to start drinking given the known detrimental effects of alcohol consumption for mortality, neuropsychiatric disorders, cirrhosis of the liver and cancer,” the study cautioned.
“One-to-14 units a week may benefit brain health,” said Yasar. “However, alcohol choices must take into account all associated risks, including liver disease and cancer.”


Alphabet unveils vision for high-tech Toronto waterfront project

The downtown skyline and CN Tower are seen past the eastern waterfront area envisioned by Alphabet Inc's Sidewalk Labs as a new technical hub in the Port Lands district of Toronto, Ontario, Canada April 3, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 25 June 2019
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Alphabet unveils vision for high-tech Toronto waterfront project

  • If the Can$3.9 billion ($2.96 billion) development goes ahead, tens of thousands of people are expected to live and work in the district, where tall buildings would be made out of timber

OTTAWA: Sidewalk Labs, a subsidiary of Google parent-company Alphabet Inc., on Monday officially unveiled its plan for a massive technology-driven neighborhood on Toronto’s waterfront that it hopes will become a blueprint for the future, but which has already generated controversy.
The 1,500-page master plan covers a 4.8-hectare (12-acre) parcel on the eastern shore of the city’s harbor. The Lake Ontario site would merge sustainable design with new technologies, such as trash-picking robots, sensors that measure pedestrians’ gait, sidewalks that melt snow and street-side parking that can be pre-booked.
But, in an era of global concern over data protection at tech firms, the proposal has been criticized for concerns over loss of privacy, and the handing over of control of public spaces to a private corporation.
The city, Ontario and federal governments, which have partnered with the New York-based urban planning firm on the project, would have to approve the proposal.
If the Can$3.9 billion ($2.96 billion) development goes ahead, tens of thousands of people are expected to live and work in the district, where tall buildings would be made out of timber.
Sidewalk Labs said it could be expanded to cover more than 77 hectares.
The aim, Sidewalk CEO Dan Doctoroff told reporters, is to “create the neighborhood of the future... with people at its center, and with cutting-edge technology and forward-thinking urban design combining to achieve ambitious improvements in the urban environment and in the way we all live.”
Public consultations will be held over the coming months.