People who drink alcohol in moderation at mealtimes — especially if they drink wine — may be less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, according to a new study presented at the American Heart Association Epidemiology, Prevention, Lifestyle & Cardiometabolic Health Conference.
While there have been several studies exploring the link between alcohol consumption and diabetes risk over the years, there are currently no recommendations from any major medical organization to drink alcohol — or not to drink it in moderation — as a way to reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes. One recent study found that in women with a history of gestational diabetes, moderate alcohol consumption is linked to a lower risk for type 2 diabetes. Once people have diabetes, there may be several things to consider when deciding whether or not to drink alcohol, or what kinds of alcoholic beverages to drink. While it has long been known that heavy alcohol consumption can raise blood pressure to unhealthy levels, recent research shows that even moderate alcohol consumption may lead to high blood pressure in many people with diabetes. In addition to blood pressure consideration, you may also want to avoid or cut back on alcohol if you have high blood triglyceride levels, peripheral neuropathy, or overweight or obesity. And some alcoholic beverages may lead to greater spikes in blood glucose than others — particularly beverages that are high in sugar or total calories. Talking with your doctor about the risks and potential benefits of alcohol consumption may be helpful.
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For the latest study, researchers looked at patterns of alcohol consumption in over 312,000 adults who took part in a large general health study called the UK Biobank. Each of these participants reported being a regular alcohol drinker, and none of them had type 2 diabetes at the beginning of the study. The average age of participants was 56, and 95% identified as white. Researchers followed the participants for an average of about 11 years, looking at who developed type 2 diabetes. People who reduced their alcohol consumption for medical reasons were excluded from the study.
Moderate wine with meals linked to reduced type 2 diabetes risk
During the follow-up period, about 8,600 participants developed type 2 diabetes. The researchers found that participants who reported drinking alcohol with meals were 14% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, compared with those who reported drinking alcohol without eating food. The researchers also found that different alcoholic beverages appeared to have different effects on diabetes risk. While a higher wine intake was linked to a lower risk for type 2 diabetes, a higher intake of beer or liquor was linked to a higher risk for type 2.
“The message from this study is that drinking moderate amounts of wine with meals may prevent type 2 diabetes,” said study author Hao Ma, MD, a biostatistical analyst at the Tulane University Obesity Research Center in New Orleans, in a press release on the study. But Ma cautioned that you should only drink alcohol “if you do not have another health condition that may be negatively affected by moderate alcohol consumption and in consultation with your doctor.”
According to the American Heart Association, moderate alcohol intake means one serving of wine or another alcoholic beverage each day for women, or two servings for men. A serving of wine is considered to be about 150 milliliters, or 5 fluid ounces. The different effects of wine and other alcoholic beverages in the latest study may indicate that when it comes to wine, the alcohol isn’t the source of potential health benefits — and you might be able to get similar health benefits from foods or beverages that don’t contain alcohol. More research is also needed to look at potential differences in health benefits between red wine and white wine.