Posted April 8, 2008
Idaho State University-Boise researcher Laura Tivis, Ph.D., has received a $319,686 grant from the National Institutes of Health to continue her research project studying how alcohol affects cognition in postmenopausal women.
This is the fourth year of her study titled “Alcohol, ERT and Cognition in Menopausal Women,” which has received about $1.4 million in funding over the past four years through the NIH’s National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). Tivis will continue to collect data this year before fully analyzing results next year.
Moderate drinking has been associated with risks and benefits, according to Tivis.
Increased risk of breast cancer and benefits to bone and cardiovascular functions have been identified. In addition, moderate drinking has been positively associated with cognition. Similar risks and benefits have been associated with estrogen replacement therapy (ERT). ERT has been found to be associated with cognition, but the finding is difficult to replicate.
“Previously, we suggested that this may be due to confounding variables, suggesting that differences in drinking patterns may cloud study interpretation,” Tivis said. “As predicted, our data support the idea of independent and interactive effects of moderate drinking and ERT use. We now theorize that moderate drinking influences cognition within a complex system of mediating variables that includes behavioral factors and overall physical and mental health”
Six groups of postmenopausal women ranging from a group that reported no alcohol consumption, through moderate drinking patterns, and up to heavier drinking practices have been included in the study. For “Time 1” testing, ERT use was assessed. Neuropsychological performance was measured using a streamlined test battery that addresses specific cognitive processes. Behavioral factors, such as diet and smoking and exercise habits, and physical- and mental-health data, were collected to calculate health-related behavior scores and physical/mental health-risk scores. Tivis’ team is in the process of repeating all of the measurements for “Time 2” testing.
Short-term benefits include identification of specific mediating factors that serve to influence the alcohol/cognition relationship. Long-term benefits include an increased understanding of the associations between alcohol consumption and overall health and the influence of specific health-related behaviors.