Association of Low to Moderate Alcohol Drinking With Cognitive Functions From Middle to Older Age Among US Adults

"In this cohort study of 19887 participants from the Health and Retirement Study, with a mean follow-up of 9.1 years, when compared with never drinking, low to moderate drinking was associated with significantly better trajectories of higher cognition scores for mental status, word recall, and vocabulary and with lower rates of decline in each of these cognition domains." - JAMA

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Aaron Blumer's picture


As a total abstainer, wish it weren't so, but there it is.

But hey, it's just one study... and only us middle aged and older people.

I'm still not about to pick up a six pack on the way home. For one thing, there's no room in my budget... I'd have to give up Greek yogurt... or tacos... or maybe even ice cream. Not going to happen.


Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

M. Osborne's picture

My news feed is full of stories about chocolate, alcohol, and coffee. I tend to ignore them. Trying to finesse my lifespan based on negligible results and tradoffs is verging on trying to add a cubit to my stature or years to my allotted days. I like vegetables and generally eat healthful food; and then when I want ice cream, I don't bother with low fat. I mean, it's ice cream. I'll receive it with thanks.

Michael Osborne
Philadelphia, PA

Bert Perry's picture

To start, there are great reasons not to drink--personal or family bad history with alcohol, dislike the taste or smell, don't want to spend on it, or just don't want to bother all qualify.  

Regarding the study, it appears to be well done--good sample size, good control for BMI, smoking, and the like.  It also acknowledges what we already knew about alcohol--that it has small and measurable benefits in moderate use for the cardiovascular system.  We know as well, along those lines, that there are big benefits to exercise, weight control, and the like for both mental function and cardiovascular function as well.  It also parallels what Scripture says about wine--a blessing in moderation, a curse in excess.  

One thing that they can't control for easily is what appears to be some significant differences between how moderate drinkers approach both food and drink vs. nondrinkers and heavy drinkers. In my experience, moderate drinkers--who by definition are going to stop after 1-3 drinks by and large--tend to be pickier about the taste, smell, and texture of both food and drink, and they also tend to match foods and drinks to one another more and make dinner a social occasion instead of "five minutes to fill an empty tank."

We might infer that if nondrinkers want to have a lot of the same benefits, they ought simply to do the same.  It doesn't even cost a lot more, and can be cheaper (my family food budget is close to a SNAP/food stamps budget, actually) if one substitutes home cooking for packaged foods.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

WallyMorris's picture

Studies like this are interesting but completely irrelevant about the rightness or wrongness of a particular behavior. If studies showed that having extramarital affairs made people happier, or using cocaine improved heart function, or yelling at a picture of someone you hated helped develop emotional health - doesn't mean these are right behaviors. Additionally, I have become very skeptical of these types of studies since the conclusions change every few years. When I was in high school, science journals published articles that coffee was bad for you. Then later, good for you. Then later, bad for you. The later, good for you. I don't pay any real attention anymore.

Wally Morris

Charity Baptist Church

Huntington, IN

TylerR's picture



Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government.

Bert Perry's picture

Agreed that these things don't prove right & wrong, and agreed that there also any number of reasons to treat many of these studies with skepticism.  I joke at times that if someone educated in the area can't find a methodology problem in most studies, one ought to take their pulse.

At the same time, though, a lot of these studies do seem to reflect what God says about many things--He called these foods good (e.g. Acts 10:15), and the way He created many of them reflects that reality in ways we might never expect.  It's when we enjoy God's gifts in excess that we tend to run into trouble; a great example is that those in the Andes use coca leaf to treat altitude sickness without problems.  It's when you refine it 370:1 to get cocaine and start taking huge doses that you run into problems.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Dan Miller's picture

WallyMorris wrote:

Studies like this are interesting but completely irrelevant about the rightness or wrongness of a particular behavior. ...

If something is explicitly evil, then even if science calls it healthy, it's still evil. (AGREE!)

However, I think there is a Biblical principle that we should care for the bodies God gave us. So I don't think it's COMPLETELY irrelevant.