SPOTLIGHT BRIEFS

Study: Moderate alcohol use may reduce dementia, cognitive damage

Posted Aug. 19, 2011, at 10:25 p.m.

LOS ANGELES — A study has found that moderate drinking may decrease the risk of dementia and cognitive decline in older people.

Researchers analyzed 143 studies that looked at the association between moderate alcohol consumption and mental abilities. The meta-analysis, published this month in the journal Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, looked at research dating back to 1977.

Studies done between 1977 and 1997 mostly focused on younger people ages 18 to 54 and for the most part sought to determine whether moderate drinking had any damaging effects. Overall it didn’t, said Michael Collins, the study’s co-author and professor in the department of molecular pharmacology and therapeutics at the University Chicago, Stritch School of Medicine.

Later studies from 1998 to the present focused more on mental status tests examining memory and cognitive function among mostly older people, he added, and most showed that drinking moderate levels of alcohol showed no effect or a decreased risk of dementia and cognitive impairment compared to control groups.

Among the studies surveyed, researchers found that this link was seen in 14 out of 19 countries, including the U.S.

Overall, those who drank moderately were 23 percent less apt to acquire dementia or other forms of Alzheimer’s disease, or to develop some cognitive damage.

Heavy drinking, on the other hand, was linked with slightly higher risk of dementia and cognitive impairment that was not statistically significant. Heavy drinking was defined as having more than three to five drinks a day, and moderate drinking as one drink a day for women, two for men.

Both men and women seemed to benefit from moderate drinking, even though the study authors noted that the sexes have different drinking patterns: Men tend to drink more than women, and overall they prefer beer and spirits, while women edge toward wine.

8 Afghans killed in strike on British compound

KABUL, Afghanistan — Suicide bombers equipped with explosive vests and guns targeted a British compound in west Kabul on Friday morning, triggering an hours-long gun battle with Afghan security forces and leaving at least eight Afghans dead.

Three foreigners — British and South African teachers and a British bodyguard — were rescued after hiding in a safe room during the attack on the British Council, the British government’s international cultural relations arm, British officials said.

Hashmat Stanikzai, the spokesman for the Kabul police department, said that the dead included Afghan police officers, the agency’s security guards and two civilians. Eight Afghan police officers were injured.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which came on the 92nd anniversary of Afghanistan’s independence from Great Britain.

Belgian festival left shredded by storm, 5 dead

HASSELT, Belgium — The Britrock band Skunk Anansie had the crowd hopping and gyrating when a sudden, fierce storm began pelting the main stage — and the thousands watching them — with rain and hail.

The storm shredded the annual Pukkelpop outdoor rock festival Thursday evening, blowing down huge canvas tents, uprooting trees and flinging multistory metal scaffolding towers and racks of concert lights across the grounds.

Organizers said five people were killed and 140 injured, 10 of them seriously.

Officials said the dead were all Belgians, ranging in age from 15 to 59. They were not immediately identified.

Officials canceled the last two days of the three-day Pukkelpop festival Friday and blamed unprecedented weather conditions in the town 50 miles east of Brussels.

Protesters defy Syria’s Assad, but troops kill 22

BEIRUT — Protesters in Syria joined in large rallies Friday, defying a government crackdown that continued despite international calls the day before for the ouster of President Bashar Assad.

Security forces loyal to Assad meanwhile killed at least 22 people and laid siege to several opposition strongholds. Fifteen of those allegedly were killed In the southern province of Dara, including two children.

According to Local Coordinating Committees, an activist network, three soldiers were also shot dead in the province when they refused to open fire on demonstrators in the town of Inkhel.

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