Sex differences in the association of alcohol with cognitive decline and brain pathology in a cohort of octogenarians

Casia Wardzala, Charles Murchison, Jennifer M. Loftis, Katie J. Schenning, Nora Mattek, Randall Woltjer, Jeff Kaye, Joseph F. Quinn, Clare J. Wilhelm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Rationale: The beneficial effects of moderate alcohol may differ in aging men versus women. Objectives: Cognitive and functional decline and neuropathology were investigated in a cohort of aging men and women with diverse alcohol histories. Methods: Non-demented (Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR) of ≤ 0.5 and a Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) score of > 24), autonomously living participants were tracked in longitudinal aging studies to examine self-report and objective tests of rates of decline in a cohort (n = 486) of octogenarians. Neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs; Braak stage) and neuritic plaques (NPs) were staged at autopsy in a subset of participants (n = 149) using current standard neuropathologic diagnostic criteria. Results: Moderate drinking men had an attenuated rate of decline compared to rare/never drinkers and women on the MMSE and CDR sum of boxes. In contrast, moderate drinking women had a reduced rate of decline only in the Logical Memory Delayed Recall Test (LMDR) compared to rare/never drinkers and men. Moderate alcohol consumption was associated with a reduction in the incidence of advanced (stages 5–6) Braak NFT stage in men (p < 0.05), with no effect in women. Conclusions: In this cohort, men experienced a broader range of beneficial effects associated with alcohol. Alcohol’s effects may differ in men and women in important ways that suggest a narrower beneficial window.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)761-770
Number of pages10
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2018


  • Alcohol
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Cognitive aging
  • Dementia
  • Neuropathology
  • Sex differences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology


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