A group of Spanish researchers claimed that they have found a link that suggests the occasional drink keeps the illness at bay especially in women and non-smokers.

The researchers compared the personal and health backgrounds of subjects affected with Alzheimer's disease with healthy people of the same age and gender mix.

In the study, the researchers also conducted surveys with relatives of 176 Alzheimer's patients and a further group of 246 healthy people across Spain.

They found that the risk of Alzheimer's was unaffected by the amount of cigarettes smoked, but a protective effect of moderate alcohol consumption was observed. The effect was more evident in non-smoking women.

Dr Ana Garcia of University of Valencia said that there is a need to consider the interactions between tobacco and alcohol consumption as well as interactions with gender when analyzing the effects of smoking and/or drinking on the risk of Alzheimer's disease. The interactive effects of smoking and drinking are supported by the fact that both alcohol and tobacco affect brain neuronal receptors.

However, it was acknowledged by the researchers that little emphasis was done into other environmental factors that influence the disease.

The findings were published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

Rebecca Wood, Chief Executive of the Alzheimer's Research Trust said that there is no conclusive research on the idea of alcohol protecting us from dementia and she urged that more studies need to be done.

She said that the most compelling evidence for reducing dementia risk is to eat a healthy diet, take plenty of exercise, and to keep blood pressure and cholesterol levels in check.