Alcohol consumption and cognitive performance: A mendelian randomization study

Meena Kumari*, Michael V. Holmes, Caroline E. Dale, Jaroslav A. Hubacek, Tom M. Palmer, Hynek Pikhart, Anne Peasey, Annie Britton, Pia Horvat, Ruzena Kubinova, Sofia Malyutina, Andrzej Pajak, Abdonas Tamosiunas, Aparna Shankar, Archana Singh-Manoux, Mikhail Voevoda, Mika Kivimaki, Aroon D. Hingorani, Michael G. Marmot, Juan P. CasasMartin Bobak

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Aims: To use Mendelian randomization to assess whether alcohol intake was causally associated with cognitive function. Design: Mendelian randomization using a genetic variant related to alcohol intake (ADH1B rs1229984) was used to obtain unbiased estimates of the association between alcohol intake and cognitive performance. Setting: Europe. Participants: More than 34000 adults. Measurements: Any versus no alcohol intake and units of intake in the previous week was measured by questionnaire. Cognitive function was assessed in terms of immediate and delayed word recall, verbal fluency and processing speed. Findings: Having consumed any versus no alcohol was associated with higher scores by 0.17 standard deviations (SD) [95% confidence interval (CI)=0.15, 0.20] for immediate recall, 0.17 SD (95% CI=0.14, 0.19) for delayed recall, 0.17 SD (95% CI=0.14, 0.19) for verbal fluency and 0.12 SD (95% CI=0.09, 0.15) for processing speed. The minor allele of rs1229984 was associated with reduced odds of consuming any alcohol (odds ratio=0.87; 95% CI=0.80, 0.95; P=0.001; R2=0.1%; F-statistic=47). In Mendelian randomization analysis, the minor allele was not associated with any cognitive test score, and instrumental variable analysis suggested no causal association between alcohol consumption and cognition: -0.74 SD (95% CI=-1.88, 0.41) for immediate recall, -1.09 SD (95% CI=-2.38, 0.21) for delayed recall, -0.63 SD (95% CI=-1.78, 0.53) for verbal fluency and -0.16 SD (95% CI=-1.29, 0.97) for processing speed. Conclusions: The Mendelian randomization analysis did not provide strong evidence of a causal association between alcohol consumption and cognitive ability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1462-1471
Number of pages10
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2014


  • ADH1B
  • Alcohol intake
  • Cognition
  • Memory
  • Processing speed
  • Verbal fluency


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