Experts said the new research should change attitudes.
‘What is most surprising about this paper is that it has taken us so long to recognise that alcohol misuse and dependence are such potent risk factors for the development of dementia’ said Robert Howard – professor of old age psychiatry at University College London.
‘We have long known that alcohol is directly neurotoxic – thiamine deficiency in alcoholics devastates memory – alcohol-related conditions such as cirrhosis and epilepsy can damage the brain and that vascular brain damage is accelerated by alcohol.
Surprisingly, we’ve not traditionally considered alcohol and its misuse as an important risk factor for dementia and we were clearly wrong not to have done so’.
The study was not set up to look at the effects of moderate drinking on people’s dementia risk.
But the lead author Dr Michaël Schwarzinger of the Translational Health Economics Network in France – warned that the research showed damage done to the brain by alcohol is never repaired.