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.”


Japan space probe Hayabusa2 drops hopping rovers toward asteroid

Updated 21 September 2018
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Japan space probe Hayabusa2 drops hopping rovers toward asteroid

  • If the mission is successful, the rovers will conduct the world’s first moving, robotic observation of an asteroid surface
  • The Hayabusa2 mission was launched in December 2014 and will return to Earth with its samples in 2020

TOKYO: A Japanese space probe Friday released a pair of exploring rovers toward an egg-shaped asteroid to collect mineral samples that may shed light on the origin of the solar system.
The “Hayabusa2” probe jettisoned the round, cookie tin-shaped robots toward the Ryugu asteroid, according to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).
If the mission is successful, the rovers will conduct the world’s first moving, robotic observation of an asteroid surface.
Taking advantage of the asteroid’s low gravity, they will jump around on the surface — soaring as high as 15 meters and staying in the air for as long as 15 minutes — to survey the asteroid’s physical features with cameras and sensors.
So far so good, but JAXA must wait for the Hayabusa2 probe to send data from the rovers to Earth in a day or two to assess whether the release has been a success, officials said.
“We are very much hopeful. We don’t have confirmation yet, but we are very, very hopeful,” Yuichi Tsuda, JAXA project manager, told reporters.
“I am looking forward to seeing pictures. I want to see images of space as seen from the surface of the asteroid,” he said.
The cautious announcement came after a similar JAXA probe in 2005 released a rover which failed to reach its target asteroid.
Next month, Hayabusa2 will deploy an “impactor” that will explode above the asteroid, shooting a two-kilo (four-pound) copper object into the surface to blast a crater a few meters in diameter.
From this crater, the probe will collect “fresh” materials unexposed to millennia of wind and radiation, hoping for answers to some fundamental questions about life and the universe, including whether elements from space helped give rise to life on Earth.
The probe will also release a French-German landing vehicle named Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT) for surface observation.
Hayabusa2, about the size of a large fridge and equipped with solar panels, is the successor to JAXA’s first asteroid explorer, Hayabusa — Japanese for falcon.
That probe returned from a smaller, potato-shaped, asteroid in 2010 with dust samples despite various setbacks during its epic seven-year odyssey and was hailed a scientific triumph.
The Hayabusa2 mission was launched in December 2014 and will return to Earth with its samples in 2020.