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.”


New Universe map unearths 300,000 more galaxies

Updated 19 February 2019
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New Universe map unearths 300,000 more galaxies

  • Discovery literally sheds new light on some of the Universe’s deepest secrets
  • More than 200 astronomers from 18 countries were involved in the study

PARIS: The known Universe just got a lot bigger.
A new map of the night sky published Tuesday charts hundreds of thousands of previously unknown galaxies discovered using a telescope that can detect light sources optical instruments cannot see.
The international team behind the unprecedented space survey said their discovery literally shed new light on some of the Universe’s deepest secrets, including the physics of black holes and how clusters of galaxies evolve.
“This is a new window on the universe,” Cyril Tasse, an astronomer at the Paris Observatory who was involved in the project, said.
“When we saw the first images we were like: ‘What is this?!’ It didn’t look anything at all like what we are used to seeing.”
More than 200 astronomers from 18 countries were involved in the study, which used radio astronomy to look at a segment of sky over the northern hemisphere, and found 300,000 previously unseen light sources thought to be distant galaxies.
Radio astronomy allows scientists to detect radiation produced when massive celestial objects interact.
The team used the Low Frequency Array (LOFAR) telescope in the Netherlands to pick up traces — or “jets” — of ancient radiation produced when galaxies merge. These jets, previously undetected, can extend over millions of light years.
“With radio observations we can detect radiation from the tenuous medium that exists between galaxies,” said Amanda Wilber, of the University of Hamburg.
“LOFAR allows us to detect many more of these sources and understand what is powering them.”
The discovery of the new light sources may also help scientists better understand the behavior of one of space’s most enigmatic phenomena.
Black holes — which have a gravitational pull so strong that no matter can escape them — emit radiation when they engulf other high-mass objects such as stars and gas clouds.
Tasse said the new observation technique would allow astronomers to compare black holes over time to see how they form and develop.
“If you look at an active black hole, the jets (of radiation) disappear after millions of years, and you won’t see them at a higher frequency (of light),” he said.
“But at a lower frequency they continue to emit these jets for hundreds of millions of years, so we can see far older electrons.”
The Hubble telescope has produced images that lead scientists to believe there are more than 100 billion galaxies in the Universe, although many are too old and distant to be observed using traditional detection techniques.
The map created by the LOFAR observations, part of which was published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, contains data equivalent to ten million DVDs yet charts just two percent of the sky.
The LOFAR telescope is made up of a Europe-wide network of radio antenna across seven countries, forming the equivalent of a 1,300-kilometer diameter satellite dish.
The team plans to create high-resolution images of the entire northern sky, which they say will reveal as many as 15 million as-yet undetected radio sources.
“The oldest objects in the Universe are around 11-12 billion light years old,” said Tasse. “So we are going to see lots more of these objects.”