A daily glass of wine may help improve heart health and blood sugar control in people with Type 2 diabetes, according to a new study out of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel. Approximately 28 million people in the United States and 350 million people globally are living with the condition.
Research suggests that moderate wine consumption may have a number of health benefits, including reducing the risk of developing heart disease and protecting against several forms of cancer. However, there are few long-term randomized controlled trials (the gold standard for research) on the topic, and recommendations regarding moderate alcohol consumption are controversial. To evaluate the effects of moderate wine intake in people with Type 2 diabetes, researchers worked with 224 volunteers ages 40 to 75 who had well-controlled Type 2 and who did not drink alcohol.
The investigators measured the subjects’ medication use and symptoms, quality of life, blood pressure, liver biomarkers, and genetic markers, then randomly assigned each person to 150 milliliters (approximately 5 ounces) of either mineral water, white wine, or red wine with dinner. All participants ate a Mediterranean-style diet (an eating style that emphasizes vegetables, whole grains, fish, fruits, low-fat dairy, nuts, and legumes) without any restriction on calories.
After two years, the researchers found that people who drank wine had decreased heart and metabolic risks compared to those who drank the mineral water. Those drinking red wine experienced the largest decrease in risk, with their HDL (“good”) cholesterol increasing by roughly 10% and their ratio of total cholesterol to HDL decreasing significantly. Additionally, people who were slow alcohol-metabolizers according to their genetic profile experienced improvements in blood sugar control associated with consumption of either red or white wine. Those in both wine groups also had better sleep quality compared to the water drinkers.
Fast alcohol-metabolizers (approximately one of every five study participants) did not experience wine-related improvements in glucose control. Additionally, no significant differences were found between the groups in blood pressure, liver function, fat levels, medications, symptoms, or quality of life.
“Initiating moderate wine intake, especially red wine, among well-controlled diabetics, as part of a healthy diet, is apparently safe, and modestly decreases cardio-metabolic risk,” according to the study authors.
In spite of the potential health benefits, however, the negatives of drinking alcohol can quickly outweigh the positives if more than a moderate amount — up to one drink a day for women and men over age 65 and up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger — is consumed. (An example of one drink is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits.) The study authors caution that the risks should be weighed against the potential benefits.
“These people were over 40, they were not drinkers before, and most important, they followed a healthy lifestyle — the Mediterranean diet plus the wine,” noted lead researcher Iris Shai, RD, PhD, in an interview with The New York Times. “So if you consider a healthy diet with red wine in moderation, you should do it carefully, with specific follow-up with your practitioner.”
For more information, read the article “Red wine ‘benefits people with Type 2 diabetes'” or see the study’s abstract in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine. And to learn more about diabetes and alcohol, see the piece “Drinking and Diabetes: Seven Facts to Know,” by certified diabetes educator and registered dietitian Amy Campbell.
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Diane Fennell: Diane Fennell has been an editor at Diabetes Self-Management magazine since 2003. She is currently the Editorial Director. (Diane Fennell is not a medical professional.)
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