27 September 2018 In Drinking & Eating Patterns

BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Studies examining the next-day cognitive effects of heavy alcohol consumption have produced mixed findings, which may reflect inconsistencies in definitions of 'hangover'. Recent consensus has defined hangover as 'mental and physical symptoms, experienced the day after a single episode of heavy drinking, starting when blood alcohol concentration (BAC) approaches zero'. In light of this, we aimed to review the literature systematically to evaluate and estimate mean effect sizes of the next-day effects of heavy alcohol consumption on cognition.

METHODS: Embase, PubMed and PsycNET databases were searched between December 2016 and May 2018 using terms based on 'alcohol' and 'hangover'. Studies of experimental designs which reported the next-day cognitive effects of heavy alcohol consumption in a 'hangover' group with BAC < 0.02% were reviewed. A total of 805 articles were identified. Thirty-nine full-text articles were screened by two independent reviewers and 19 included in the systematic review; 11 articles provided sufficient data to be included in the meta-analysis; 1163 participants across 19 studies conducted since 1970 were included in the analysis. Data for study design, hangover severity, BAC at testing and cognitive performance were extracted and effect estimates calculated.

RESULTS: The systematic review suggested that sustained attention and driving abilities were impaired during hangover. Mixed results were observed for: psychomotor skills, short- (STM) and long-term memory (LTM) and divided attention. The meta-analysis revealed evidence of impairments in STM [g = 0.64, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.15-1.13], LTM (Hedges' g = 0.59, 95% CI = 0.01-1.17) sustained attention (g = 0.47, 95% CI = 0.07-0.87) and psychomotor speed (Hedges' g = 0.66, 95% CI = 0.31-1.00) during alcohol hangover.

CONCLUSION: The research literature suggests that alcohol hangovers may involve impaired cognitive functions and performance of everyday tasks such as driving.

Binge drinking (BD) is a public health concern with serious implications for brain development. This review is the first in which neuropsychological studies of healthy young BDs are synthesized following PRISMA guidelines. We conducted a literature search in PsycINFO, Web of Science, and PubMed. Articles were screened using strict inclusion criteria. Two authors independently assessed the methodological quality. Of the 27 studies included, 14 (52%) were of intermediate quality, 7 (26%) of poor quality and 6 (22%) of high quality. BD is associated with deficits in verbal memory and executive functions, principally poor inhibitory control. Tentatively, BD may be related to deficits in cognitive flexibility and monitoring of information in working memory. Further studies are needed to determine potential impairments in prospective memory and decision-making. BDs do not seem to show difficulties in planning, short-term memory, attention, processing speed or visuospatial construction. The evidence does not seem to support greater vulnerability in females. Future longitudinal studies should identify the characteristics of extreme trajectories, explore recovery deficits and design intervention programs.

18 May 2018 In Dementia

Alcohol consumption is common in Western countries and has been increasing in older adults. Latest figures from Great Britain suggest 75% of those over 65 years drink, an increase from 71% 10 years ago. Chronic heavy intake is a well-established cause of brain atrophy and dementia, with a recent long-term prospective study from the USA reporting a doubling of the odds of later severe memory impairment in those with a history of an alcohol use disorder. Drinking of moderate amounts has been reported to be protective for brain health in a number of epidemiological studies, including some claims of possibly reducing dementia risk. Rigorous recent research has questioned this belief, with new evidence of harmful associations in moderate drinkers compared with abstainers. This has raised suspicion that reported protective effects of moderate drinking were due to confounding by socioeconomic class and intelligence. Clinicians should look out for cognitive impairment in heavy drinkers, considering that abstinence may induce a degree of clinical improvement. Discussions with patients regarding moderate drinking should be informed by recent research. Health benefits of moderate drinking at least for cognitive function are questionable, and if they exist are probably limited to one unit of alcohol daily with respect to other body systems.

04 August 2017 In General Health

Understanding the relationship between memory function and lifestyle offers great opportunities for promoting beneficial lifestyle choices to foster healthy cognitive aging and for the development of intervention programs for older adults. We studied a cohort of older adults (age 65 and older) enrolled in the Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam, an ongoing prospective population-based research project. A total of 1,966 men and women participated in an episodic memory test every 3 years over a period of 14 years. Lifestyle habits were repeatedly assessed using self-report measures. Physical activity, light-to-moderate alcohol consumption, difficulties staying asleep, and social engagement were associated with better memory function over the course of 14 years. In contrast, smoking and long sleep duration were associated with worse memory function. These findings suggest that certain lifestyle factors can have long-term protective or harmful effects on memory function in aging individuals.

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