WHAT are we to make of the research published this week, which suggests that giving up the booze in middle age may increase the risk of dementia in later life?

The findings, following a study of more than 9,000 people in Britain which began in the 1980s, were published in the British Medical Journal.

Before we all shout "whoopee" (other comic book exclamations are available) however, and trot along to the off licence for a four-pack of lager (other beverages are available), it's worth pausing and reading the small print.

This seems to give 100 per cent proof that the old adage 'everything in moderation' is true.

It is the moderate drinkers among us - these days that classification applies to those who drink no more than the Government recommended weekly alcohol intake of 14 units - whose dementia risk appears to be reduced.

The study suggests that people who lay off alcohol in middle age have an up to 50 per cent higher risk of dementia, compared to those who drink up to the recommended level.

Go beyond 14 units a week however, and the dementia risk climbs again, by around 17 per cent for every seven more units consumed.

Quite why this apparent window of alcohol-imbibing opportunity opens up for folk in middle age isn't deeply understood.

The findings however, appear to back the 14-unit recommended weekly maximum alcohol intake.

In case you are not sure what that means, 14 units is equivalent to: 14 single measures of spirits (based on 37.5 per cent alcohol: seven pints of average strength lager (four per cent); and nine and one third 125 millilitre glasses, or seven 175ml glasses, or four and two thirds 250 ml glasses of average strength wine (12 per cent).

Of course, adhering to these limits is no guarantee that one won't develop dementia in later life, as there are other factors involved.

There are also arguments for not drinking at all, not least the documented increased risk of cancer with alcohol consumption.

It all, as usual, comes down to choice. But it's good to have some research to help make it.