Moderate drinking may prolong life of people with Alzheimer’s

Researchers explain finding by saying early-stage Alzheimer’s patients who drink have a richer social network and thus a better quality of life; also in science this week, how smoking in pregnancy affects your sons’ fitness

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 December, 2015, 8:00pm
UPDATED : Monday, 14 December, 2015, 8:00pm

People with early stage Alzheimer’s disease who drank two to three units of alcohol every day had a 77 per cent lowered risk of death compared with patients who consumed more or less alcohol, a new study in the online journal BMJ Open reveals. Researchers analysed data collected on 330 people with early stage dementia or Alzheimer’s disease and their primary carers from across Denmark as part of the Danish Alzheimer’s Intervention Study. The participants were tracked for four years. Eight per cent drank no alcohol and 4 per cent drank more than three units daily. Most of the sample (71 per cent) drank one or fewer units a day; 17 per cent drank two to three units. During the monitoring period, 53 (16.5 per cent) of those with mild Alzheimer’s disease died. The researchers say a possible explanation for the findings could be that people who drink moderately have a richer social network, which has been linked to improved quality, and possibly length, of life. “The results of our study point towards a potential, positive association of moderate alcohol consumption on mortality in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. However, we cannot solely, on the basis of this study, either encourage or advise against moderate alcohol consumption in [these] patients,” the researchers caution.

Smoking in pregnancy ‘affects sons’ fitness in later life’

Mothers who smoke are putting more than their own health at risk: it could also affect the aerobic fitness of their children. A Finnish study of 508 young men with an average age of 19 has found that those whose mothers smoked during pregnancy (about 12 per cent of the men) have lower aerobic fitness compared to those whose mothers did not. The men’s aerobic fitness was measured by ability on a running test at the beginning of their military service assessment. Aerobic activity was also independently associated with their own smoking status, weight and physical activity. The study also found that higher maternal pre-pregnancy body mass index and excessive weight gain during pregnancy were associated with lower aerobic fitness in the offspring. Dr Maria Hagnäs from the University of Oulu, Finland, and lead author of the study says: “It’s well established that smoking and breathing in second-hand smoke are harmful for both mother and baby. Our study adds to the existing evidence base of the negative and long-standing impacts of maternal smoking.”

If you make impulsive choices you should blame your parents – it’s genetic

Good things come to those who wait; for those who can’t seem to wait, it could be due to your genes, according to a report presented last week at the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology annual meeting in Hollywood, Florida. “Delay discounting” is the tendency, given the choice, to take a smaller reward that is available immediately, instead of a larger reward that will be delivered in the future. In a study of 602 twins, scientists at Washington University School of Medicine found that delay discounting gradually improves as teens get older, such that 18-year-olds have a greater ability or tendency to wait for the larger delayed reward, as compared to younger teens. Apart from age, genes accounted for about half of the difference among individuals in their level of delay discounting.

Many genes are likely to influence delay discounting; and the researchers’ preliminary data suggest that these “impulsivity genes” may include genes coding for enzymes that synthesise the neurotransmitter serotonin and receptors where serotonin binds in the brain. Identifying the “delay discounting” genes, and the proteins they code for, could be important for understanding the basis of a variety of psychiatric disorders, especially addictions and other disorders that involve impulsive decision-making.