NEW YORK (April 9, 2009) – Regularly downing three units of alcohol a day can double the likelihood of developing involuntary (essential) tremor, suggests research published ahead of print in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.
Essential tremor is a common neurological disorder, with an estimated five million in the US over the age of 60 affected.
The exact cause is unknown, but it is thought to be the result of damage to particular brain (Purkinje) cells and disrupted signaling between the nerve “junction boxes” or synapses.
The research team based their findings on an assessment of lifetime alcohol consumption and neurological symptoms in almost 3,300 people aged 65 and above.
All participants were part of a large population survey of major age related conditions in three areas of central Spain (Neurological Disorders in Central Spain study, or NEDICES). Just over half (56 percent) regularly drank alcohol.
They were first assessed between 1994 and 1995 and then again three years later between 1997 and 1998, when essential tremor was diagnosed in 76 of them.
Compared with those who had not developed tremor, those who did were significantly more likely to have been drinking regularly and for longer.
After adjusting for factors that could influence the results, such as lifetime cigarette smoking and depression, results found that those who drank at least three units a day more than doubled their risk of essential tremor.
Every additional year of regular daily drinking at this level upped the risk by 23 percent. Even those who drank fewer units, but who drank regularly, increased their risk, although not to the same extent.
Alcohol is a known brain toxin, particularly to the cerebellum, which is the part involved in involuntary tremor, say the authors.
Paradoxically, alcohol is often used to relieve symptoms in those who have already been diagnosed with essential tremor. But it may, in fact, hasten progression of the condition and worsen symptoms, they conclude.
Click here to view the paper in full: http://press.psprings.co.uk/jnnp/april/jn162701.pdf
Columbia University Medical Center provides international leadership in basic, pre-clinical and clinical research, in medical and health sciences education, and in patient care. The medical center trains future leaders and includes the dedicated work of many physicians, scientists, public health professionals, dentists, and nurses at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, the Mailman School of Public Health, the College of Dental Medicine, the School of Nursing, the biomedical departments of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and allied research centers and institutions. Established in 1767, Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons was the first institution in the country to grant the M.D. degree and is now among the most selective medical schools in the country. Columbia University Medical Center is home to the most comprehensive medical research enterprise in New York City and state and one of the largest in the United States. Columbia University Medical Center is affiliated with NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, the nation’s largest not-for-profit hospital provider. For more information, please visit http://www.cumc.columbia.edu.