data.jpgBy Nicole Ostrow

Certain types of alcohol use after age 65 may affect memory and thinking, according to two studies that raise new questions about earlier research that suggested drinking may stymie cognitive decline.

People 65 and older who regularly consumed four or more alcoholic beverages at a time, a situation described in the study as binge-drinking, were more likely to have the highest drop-off in brain function and the most memory decline, according to one result. A second study reported that women who indulged heavily early in life or were moderate drinkers after 65 were more likely to have cognitive impairment.

Drinking alcohol had been thought to reduce the risk of cognitive decline in some older people, the Alzheimer’s Association said in a statement. Today’s reports, presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Vancouver, suggest more research is needed.

“It’s clear that the pattern of drinking is important, that increasing alcohol consumption even to moderate levels may not be a good idea, and that there is a lot we don’t know about this topic,” said Iain Lang, lead author of the binge-drinking study and a senior lecturer in public health at the University of Exeter’s Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry in the U.K. “Older adults should be cautious.”

New research should be done to look at the effects of alcohol consumption, including how binge drinking at younger ages may affect people later in life, Lang wrote in an e-mail.

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