Drinking two pints of beer every day could help to reduce the risk of dementia by more than a third, according to a new study.
Australian researchers found that those who drank a moderate amount of alcohol every day were less likely to develop the condition than those who abstained from alcohol completely.
The team, from the University of New South Wales, gathered data from 15 previous studies on the drinking habits and dementia rates of 24,478 over-60s. Over the course of the study, 2,124 people were diagnosed with dementia.
The cohort was split into non-drinkers, occasional drinkers (1.3g of ethanol per day), light to moderate drinkers (1.3g to 25g per day), moderate to heavy drinkers (25g to 45g per day) and heavy drinkers (more than 45g per day).
One pint of beer contains around 16g of ethanol, while an average-sized glass of wine has around 18g.
Those who drank between one and two drinks per day were 38 per cent less likely to develop the condition compared with teetotallers, the study found. Even the heaviest drinkers had a 19 per cent reduced risk of developing dementia.
Writing in the journal Addiction, researcher Dr Louise Mewton from the University of New South Wales, Australia, said: “Drinking up to 40g a day [five units] was associated with a lower risk of dementia when compared with lifetime abstaining.”
The NHS advises adults not to drink more than 14 units per week – the equivalent of six pints of beer or 10 small glasses of wine.
The potential health risks of heavy drinking include liver disease, cancer and heart disease.
Dr Mewton warned that the results of the study should not encourage those at risk of the condition to drink more, writing that the findings “need to be balanced against neuroimaging evidence suggesting that even low levels of alcohol use are associated with poorer brain health”.
Alcohol use was also assessed by self-report in the study, meaning some respondents were likely to have underestimated how much they drink.
Dr Sara Imarisio, head of research at Alzheimer's Research UK, said: “The results showed that people who never drank alcohol had a higher chance of developing dementia than those who did.
“These results are consistent with previous research on this topic, which also show that heavy consumption of alcohol, as well as not drinking, seems linked to a higher risk of dementia.”
There are 944,000 people with dementia in the UK, according to Alzheimer’s Research UK. This is projected to increase to over one million by 2020 and 1.6 million by 2050, according to the charity.