Two drinks slow down older people

Just two single vodka and orange drinks were enough to slow down reaction time in older adults, revealed a study.

The researchers found that senior volunteers struggle at an obstacle avoidance test while walking if they consume just two alcoholic drinks.

Judith Hegeman worked with a team of researchers from Sint Maartenskliniek, Nijmegen, The Netherlands, to carry out the tests in 13 healthy men and women (average age 61.5yrs or 62yrs).

"The results clearly show that even with low blood alcohol concentrations, reactions to sudden gait perturbations are seriously affected. After ingestion of 2 alcoholic drinks, obstacles were hit twice as often, response times were delayed and response amplitudes were reduced. These changes were most obvious in situations with little available response time," she said.

To carry out the test, the volunteers first started to walk on a treadmill.

Once they had attained a steady walking pace, a thin wooden block was placed at the far end of the belt and allowed to move towards the volunteer.

Hegeman and her colleagues measured the effects of alcohol on how capable the subjects were of stepping over this obstacle.

"We found that alcohol levels, considered to be safe for driving, seriously hamper the ability to successfully avoid sudden obstacles in the travel path. A possible limitation of this study is the relatively small sample size, however even with the small number, it yielded an unequivocal outcome," she said.

The study is published in the open access journal BMC Research Notes.