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updated 3/7/2011 12:05:26 PM ET 2011-03-07T17:05:26

Being a light to moderate drinker could protect you from mental decline or dementia, according to a new study.

Light and moderate drinkers were 29 percent less likely to develop any kind of dementia than people who didn't drink alcohol or who drank high amounts of alcohol, German researchers said.

The light and moderate drinkers also had a 42 percent decreased risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, the study said.

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The researchers interviewed 3,327 people ages 75 and older at their homes in Germany, and followed up with them one-and-a-half and three years later. Researchers also collected information from doctors and family members on whether the participants had any form of dementia.

At the end of the study, 217 people had developed dementia, including 111 who'd developed Alzheimer's disease. Half of them said they did not regularly drink any alcohol, the study said. About 25 percent of those with dementia said they consumed less than one drink a day (10 grams or less of alcohol), 12.8 percent said they had about 2 drinks a day (10 to 19 grams of alcohol) and 12.4 percent said they consumed more than two drinks a day (20 or more grams of alcohol), the study said.

Among those who drank alcohol, 48.6 percent drank only wine, 29 percent drank beer only and 22.4 percent said they drank beer, wine and other alcoholic beverages, the study said.

The researchers also found that those who were male, had a higher level of education, didn't live alone and were not depressed, were more likely to be drinkers, the study said.

The study was published March 2 in the journal Age and Ageing.

Pass it on: Being a light to moderate drinker of alcohol is associated with a decreased risk of developing dementia.

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