Scientists found pensioners aged 75 or over who like a daily pint or glass of wine are helping to stave off senility.
Those who drink alcohol are 30 per cent less likely to develop dementia and 40 per cent less likely to suffer Alzheimer’s than those who were teetotal, according to the research.
A study of more than 3,200 German people aged 75 or over attending GPs, who were free of dementia, were studied and checked 18 months and three years later.
Associations between alcohol consumption, type of alcohol – wine, beer, mixed alcohol beverages – and incident dementia were examined.
“People should be aware that we are talking about mild/moderate consumption of alcohol,” said Professor Siegfried Weyerer from the Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim, Germany.
“There is no doubt that long-term alcohol abuse is detrimental to memory function and can cause neurodegenerative disease.”
Of 3,202 volunteers free of dementia at the start, 217 went on to suffer from it later on.
But those consuming alcohol had approximately 30 per cent less overall dementia and 40 per cent less suffered Alzheimer’s disease than did non-drinking subjects.
“No significant differences were seen according to the type of alcoholic beverage consumed,” said the report.
“Overall, these results are similar to several previous studies in the very elderly and suggest that moderate drinking is associated with less dementia, even among individuals aged 75 and older.”
The authors conclusions suggests that light to moderate alcohol consumption is inversely related to incident dementia, also among individuals aged 75 years and older.
In the last 31 years the association between moderate alcohol intake and cognitive function has been investigated in 71 studies comprising 153,856 men and women from various populations with various drinking patterns.
Most studies showed an association between light to moderate alcohol consumption and better cognitive function and reduced risk of dementia, including vascular dementia and Alzheimer dementia.
Commenting on the results Doctor Harvey Finkel, of Boston University Medical Centre in the United States, said: “The badge of age is not a warning label of fragility.
“While, I believe, one should not start to drink just because one has attained seniority, neither must one stop.
“Elderly folks handle alcohol with more responsibility than do the young, and they may derive greater health benefits from moderate drinking. Age is not a reason for abstinence.”
The study was published in the journal Age and Ageing.