Journal Article

Association between Reported Alcohol Intake and Cognition: Results from the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study

Mark A. Espeland, Lin Gu, Kamal H. Masaki, Robert D. Langer, Laura H. Coker, Marcia L. Stefanick, Judith Ockene and Stephen R. Rapp

in American Journal of Epidemiology

Published on behalf of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Volume 161, issue 3, pages 228-238
Published in print February 2005 | ISSN: 0002-9262
Published online February 2005 | e-ISSN: 1476-6256 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aje/kwi043
Association between Reported Alcohol Intake and Cognition: Results from the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study

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Some, but not all, observational studies have suggested that moderate levels of alcohol intake may be associated with improved cognitive function and reduced risk of cognitive decline and dementia. The authors of this 1996–2002 study used data from the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study of postmenopausal combination hormone therapy to assess cross-sectional and prospective associations of self-reported alcohol intake with cognitive function. Across 39 US academic medical centers, 4,461 community-dwelling women aged 65–79 years were followed an average of 4.2 years with annual Modified Mini-Mental State Examinations and standardized protocols for detecting mild cognitive impairment and probable dementia. Compared with no intake, intake of ≥1 drink per day was associated with higher baseline Modified Mini-Mental State Examination scores (p < 0.001) and a covariate-adjusted odds ratio of 0.40 (95% confidence interval: 0.28, 0.99) for significant declines in cognitive function. Associations with incident probable dementia and mild cognitive impairment were of similar magnitude but were not statistically significant after covariate adjustment. Associations with intakes of <1 drink per day were intermediate. Moderate levels of alcohol intake may be associated with better cognition and reduced risk of significant cognitive decline; however, confounding associations with unmeasured factors cannot be ruled out.

Keywords: cognition; dementia; ethanol; women’s health; APOE4, apolipoprotein E epsilon-4 genotype; CI, confidence interval; E + P, conjugated equine estrogens plus medroxyprogesterone acetate; HDL, high density lipoprotein; SE, standard error; 3MSE, Modified Mini-Mental State Examination; WHIMS, Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study.

Journal Article.  6500 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology

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