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Alcohol Consumption Not Linked to Higher Parkinson’s Risk, Large Study Says

alcohol and Parkinson's risk

Alcohol consumption does not seem to increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease, according to data from a large European study.

The study, “Alcohol Consumption and Risk of Parkinson’s Disease: Data from a Large Prospective European Cohort,” was published in the journal Movement Disorders.

Although the specific causes underlying Parkinson’s are still not fully understood, it is believed the disease results from a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Some studies have suggested that coffee drinking and cigarette smoking are both associated with a lower risk of Parkinson’s, although the mechanisms by which they exert their effects are still unknown.

Alcohol consumption is another environmental factor that has been hypothesized as potentially linked to the onset of Parkinson’s.

Although three large U.S. studies have found little or no evidence for a decreased risk of Parkinson’s in association with total alcohol consumption, one of the studies found that drinking specific alcoholic beverages was associated with different effects regarding Parkinson’s risk. For instance, drinking beer in moderation seemed to be associated with a lower risk of Parkinson’s, while consuming liquor correlated with a higher risk.

To explore the relationship between alcohol consumption and Parkinson’s risk, an international group of researchers analyzed data from 209,998 adults who were part of the NeuroEPIC4PD, a subset of European individuals within the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) cohort study.

Researchers created short-term risk estimates for average alcohol consumption based on data gathered the year before individuals enrolled into NeuroEPIC4PD. Long-term risk estimates that took into account information gathered over the individuals’ lifetime — from the age of 20 — were also evaluated.

Investigators also assessed the risks of Parkinson’s associated with consumption of specific types of alcoholic beverages.

From the large group of individuals included in the analyses, 694 had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

Investigators found no associations between alcohol consumption and Parkinson’s risk. This was true for both short- and long-term risk estimates on the overall population, as well as in subpopulations stratified by sex.

However, analyses did find that men who consumed alcohol in moderation (5–29.9 g/day) had an approximately 50% higher risk of developing Parkinson’s than those who were light alcohol drinkers (0.1–4.9 g/day).

Researchers found no associations between any type of alcoholic beverages (wine, beer, fortified wine, liquor, and spirits) and Parkinson’s risk.

“Overall, our data support previous findings from large U.S. prospective studies that there is no association between alcohol consumption and the risk of [Parkinson’s disease],” the researchers concluded.

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No Link Between Drinking Alcohol and Increased Parkinson’s Risk in Women, Large UK Study Finds

alcohol, parkinson's risk

Drinking alcohol does not increase the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease in women in the United Kingdom, nor are there increased risks linked to the consumption of different types of alcohol, a large study has concluded

The study, “Alcohol intake and Parkinson’s disease risk in the million women study,” was published in the journal Movement Disorders.

Several studies have investigated the link between alcohol intake and the risk of Parkinson’s disease, albeit with contradictory results: While some reports suggest people who drink alcohol have a lower risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, other studies show no effect. 

Some studies have suggested that different types of alcohol (beer, wine, and liquor) can influence Parkinson’s risk differently, with low beer consumption linked to a lower Parkinson’s risk and liquor associated with a higher Parkinson’s risk. 

However, most of these studies have been retrospective — based on information collected about the past — which rely on people accurately remembering details about their lives, and many studies did not properly control for other influential lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, and smoking (confounding factors), which can affect the conclusions. 

Moreover, many of these associations between alcohol and Parkinson’s were found in men but not women. 

Therefore, a team of researchers based at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom conducted a prospective study — following individuals over time — of a large group of women in the U.K. to examine the association between Parkinson’s and alcohol intake. 

Participants were recruited from The Million Women Study — a U.K. initiative that collected information on the lifestyle and medical histories of more than 1.3 million women, ages 50 to 64, to investigate how reproductive and lifestyle factors affect women’s long-term health. 

At the beginning of the study, a total of 1,309,267 women without Parkinson’s completed a questionnaire on weekly alcohol consumption. They were asked to identify different alcohol types they consumed that each contained approximately 10 grams of pure alcohol (glass of wine, half-pint of beer/cider, or a shot of liquor) and reported a number of drinks per week ranging from no alcohol to 21 or more drinks. 

After 14 years, 44,524 participants completed an additional 24-hour diet recall questionnaire to measure their alcohol intake. 

Women who went on to develop Parkinson’s were identified through hospital or death records. After an average follow-up time of 17.6 years, a total of 11,009 women developed the disease. 

Data analysis found that, compared with drinkers, non-drinkers with an alcohol intake between zero and one drink per week had an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s. However, because some women in the early stages of Parkinson’s can change their drinking habits, the team excluded data from the first 10 years and found the risk for non-drinkers was lower.  

The higher Parkinson’s risk in non-drinkers may reflect that in the early stages of the disease, parts of the brain associated with alcohol drinking behavior may be damaged, making a person that goes on to develop Parkinson’s less likely to drink. 

For women who consumed more than 14 drinks per week, the risk of developing Parkinson’s was the same as women who drank one to two drinks per week, in both the first 10 years and after more than 10 years of follow-up. 

No increased risks were found between women who drank only one type of alcohol and those who drank more than one type. 

The research team also found no association between alcohol consumption and Parkinson’s in those who never smoked cigarettes, and these results remained whether women had cardiovascular disease, drank coffee and tea, or had a family history of Parkinson’s.

“In this analysis of a large, prospective cohort of women in the UK, we found little evidence for an association between usual alcohol intake and [Parkinson’s] risk,” the authors reported. “Nor was there any evidence of an association between intake of specific types of beverages and [Parkinson’s] risk.

“The results suggest that alcohol intake does not materially influence the risk of [Parkinson’s] in UK women,” they concluded. 

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Physical Activity, Coffee, Moderate Alcohol Consumption Protect Against Disease Progression, Study Reports

coffee, alcohol, lifestyle factors

Physical activity and participation in competitive sports, as well as coffee, caffeinated tea or moderate alcohol consumption before diagnosis, protect against worsening motor and cognitive function in Parkinson’s patients, according to a new population-based study.

In contrast, smoking and heavy alcohol consumption — or never consuming alcohol — correlated with higher risks of mortality and cognitive and motor decline.

The research, “The Association Between Lifestyle Factors and Parkinson’s Disease Progression and Mortality,” was published in the journal Movement Disorders.

Lifestyle factors such as coffee and moderate alcohol consumption, physical activity, and cigarette smoking have been linked with lower risk of Parkinson’s disease. Whether they affect disease progression remains undetermined, although small studies have shown that smoking and drinking coffee do not affect motor progression in Parkinson’s.

In turn, nonpaharmacologic approaches such as physical activity may benefit physical functioning, balance and gait, as well as protect against dementia.

Researchers at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and the David Geffen School of Medicine, in Los Angeles, California, assessed whether diverse lifestyle factors before a Parkinson’s diagnosis in adults affect motor progression, cognitive decline, and survival.

A total of 360 patients were enrolled within three years of diagnosis (average 2.1 years), as part of the population-based Parkinson’s Environment and Gene study in central California. The patients lived in one of three central California counties — Kern, Fresno or Tulare — and were followed from 2001 to 2016.

From the 252 patients not lost to follow-up (mean follow-up 5.3 years; 64 patients deceased, six were too ill, 17 withdrew, and 21 could not be contacted), 244 individuals — 139 men, mean age at diagnosis 66.9 years, mean duration of disease at baseline 2.1 years — provided data for analysis of disease progression.

The team also included 341 control participants from the same communities for analysis of mortality, who had been living in California for at least five years.

Telephone interviews were conducted to obtain self-reports of history of smoking, caffeinated coffee/tea or alcohol (beer, wine and liquor) consumption, overall physical activity level, and participation in competitive sports.

The participants were asked to report at what age they started and stopped drinking the beverages, as well as their average consumption per day during four age groups: 18-24, 25-44, 45-64, and 65 years or older.

Also, patients were asked about the average number of days per week and hours per day they participated in mild, moderate, or vigorous physical activity at the same age groups. Participation in competitive sports also was addressed, including basketball (20.6% of participants), baseball (18.1%), football (18.1%), track and field (12.5 %), and softball (8.3%).

Physical examinations were performed at each visit to assess motor function — Hoehn & Yahr (H&Y) stages — and cognition, with the Mini-Mental State Exam (MMSE). Cognitive decline was defined as a 4-point decrease from baseline MMSE examination.

In total, 209 patients (58%) and 67 controls (20%) died during follow-up. Fifty of the 244 patients (21%) assessed for progression experienced a 4-point or greater decline on the MMSE, while 77 (32%) progressed to H&Y stage 3 — transition from mild to moderate motor dysfunction, with loss of balance — or worse.

Coffee, caffeinated tea, moderate (below the median drinks per day), beer or liquor consumption, and participation in competitive sports were protective against mortality. In contrast, smoking and never drinking coffee or alcohol correlated with increased risk of mortality. Of note, the higher risk with smoking contrasts with prior studies showing protection against disease onset, the scientists noted.

In controls, alcohol and coffee consumption also were protective, while smoking conferred greater mortality risk.

The data further showed that engaging in competitive sports was associated with a history of head trauma in Parkinson’s patients, but not in controls. Head trauma also was linked with shorter time from diagnosis to death in this subset of patients.

Ever coffee consumption, participating in competitive sports and physical activity were protective against both motor function worsening and cognitive decline. Compared to moderate drinkers, patients who never drank liquor and those who drank more heavily were at greater risk for motor dysfunction. Also, never drinking and current cigarette smoking were associated with increased risk of cognitive decline.

Comparing patients who never drank coffee to those who have ever drank it, the findings also showed that never consuming coffee was associated with younger age at diagnosis (62.6 vs 67.6 years), longer disease duration at baseline (2.7 vs. 1.9 years) and less weekly alcohol consumption at some point (44% vs 69%).

“Although replication is needed,” researchers wrote, “our study suggests that multiple lifestyle factors potentially modify the rate of symptom progression.”

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