Drinking moderate amounts of alcohol can help lower the chances of developing dementia, Dutch scientists said on Friday.
Whether it is wine, beer or whisky, people over 55 who enjoy a daily tipple are less likely to suffer from Alzheimer's or other types of senility than those who don't drink.
"We found that, in this population of individuals aged 55 years or older, those who consumed up to three glasses of alcohol per day had a lower risk of dementia...than those who never drank alcohol,'' Dr. Monique Breteler, an epidemiologist at Erasmus University Medical School in Rotterdam, said.
In a study of 8,000 people published in The Lancet medical journal, Breteler and her colleagues reported light-to-moderate drinking cut the risk of dementia by 42 per cent and of vascular dementia, another form of senility, by 70 per cent.
The scientists believe moderate amounts of alcohol may reduce the risk of dementia by releasing acetylcholine, a brain protein that helps to transmit messages between brain cells that control functions such as memory, attention and addiction.
But they noted too much alcohol inhibited its production.
Studies have also shown that small amounts of alcohol can increase high density lipoprotein, or good cholesterol, that reduces plaque in the arteries.
Breteler believes vascular factors are involved in the development of Alzheimer's and that moderate amounts of alcohol may reduce the risk of dementia in a similar method to the way it cuts the risk of heart disease.
"Our findings lend further support to the vascular hypothesis of dementia,'' she said.