The amount of alcohol consumed by older adults may influence their risk of cognitive decline and dementia, both positively and negatively. A new study claims that alcohol may have both a neuro toxic and neuro protective effect, depending on the amount consumed and drinking patterns. Using longitudinal and brain imaging techniques on the elderly, researchers found that while excessive alcohol consumption may increase the risk of cognitive decline and dementia, low to moderate alcohol intake could protect against mental deterioration. The study hopes to determine if there is an "optimal pattern of drinking" capable of protecting older adults against the onset of dementia. Previous studies have also suggested that low to moderate alcohol intake can protect against heart disease. The mechanisms behind this are reasonably well defined, compared to those suggesting alcohol can be beneficial for cognitive function. However, further study is needed before doctors can recommend a particular unit of alcohol consumption as a prevention measure. Find out about dementia care and support services at Barchester care homes.