May 262010


Two of the key elements when taking a history from a patient include smoking tobacco and alcohol consumption. Both of these activities have been shown to affect general health. Now, in a recently published study from Barcelona, Spain, it appears that they may be important risk factors in Alzheimer’s disease (AD), but in a unique way.

Knowledge regarding environmental factors influencing the risk of AD is surprisingly scarce, despite substantial research in this area. In particular, the roles of smoking and alcohol consumption still remain controversial. A new study published this month in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease suggests a protective effect of light alcohol consumption on the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, particularly in women who do not smoke.

Researchers at the University of Valencia, the Generalitat Valenciana, and the Institut Municipal d’Investigació Mèdica, Barcelona, in Spain, carried out a study comparing personal and clinical antecedents of subjects affected with AD with healthy people, both groups were the same age and gender distribution. Women included in the study were mainly light or moderate alcohol consumers. The risk of Alzheimer’s disease was unaffected by any measure of tobacco consumption, but a protective effect of light alcohol consumption was observed, this effect being more evident in women who are nonsmokers.

Certainly more work will be needed to compare these results across other lifestyle modifiers, and populations, in large prospective studies. This type of research is likely critical to better understanding the development of AD, as well as identifying the interplay of various risk factors, as it is undoubtedly a multi-factorial process.

*García, Ana M, Nieves Ramón-Bou, Miquel Porta. Isolated and Joint Effects of Tobacco and Alcohol Consumption on Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease. J Alzheimers Dis 20:2 (May 2010), p 577-586.

Michael S. Rafii, M.D., Ph.D
Associate Medical Director
Alzheimier’s Disease Cooperative Study

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