Alcohol Consumption Linked to Reduction in Diabetes Risk

AUGUST 03, 2017
Gail Connor Roche
Drinking alcohol can reduce the risk of diabetes, with both men and women benefiting from imbibing 3 to 4 days a week, new research from Denmark suggests.

Previous studies have found the risk of developing the metabolic disorder is lower among people who consume light to moderate amounts of alcohol compared to teetotalers and those who drink heavily.

The study, performed by Janne Tolstrup (pictured) and her colleagues at the National Institute of Public Health of the University of Southern Denmark in Copenhagen, investigated possible correlations between diabetes risk and how individuals consume alcohol.

“We aimed at testing if drinking pattern measured as frequency played a role,’’ Tolstrup told MD Magazine. “And it did – drinking 3-4 times a week was associated with a lower risk as compared to drinking the same total amount on a single day.”

Tolstrup and her team reviewed data from 70,551 citizens who took part in the Danish Health Examination Survey (DAHNES) from 2007 to 2008. There were 28,704 men and 41,847 women in the group. Those with pre-existing diabetes and women who were pregnant or had recently given birth were excluded.

The individuals gave details of alcohol consumption and completed a questionnaire on lifestyle and health. Follow-up information continued until 2012, with a median follow-up of 4.9 years, according to the report. During this period, 859 men and 887 women developed diabetes.

The lowest risk of contracting the disease came with consuming alcohol 3 to 4 days a week, the data showed. The risk in this group was 27% less in men and 32% lower in women when compared to those who drank less than 1 day per week. The lowest risk was observed at 14 drinks per week in men and 9 drinks per week in women, according to the paper, which was published online on July 27 in Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes.

Moderate to high intake of wine had the biggest risk-reduction effect, in line with previous studies. The authors cited the protective effect of polyphenols, the natural phytochemical compounds found in red wine. These may exert beneficial effects on blood glucose control and lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, the study said.

Among women, however, a high intake of spirits was linked to a higher risk of diabetes.

“Alcohol has been suggested to increase insulin sensitivity and lower fasting insulin resistance, which might play an important role in the progression of diabetes,” Tolstrup said. However, she mentioned that “due to limited knowledge about mechanisms between alcohol and glycemic control, the mechanism explaining our results is not clear.”

Tolstrup said future studies should be “more experimental and mechanism oriented than our study, which is epidemiological and observational only.”

She further cautioned against using the results to promote drinking. For instance, at levels where alcohol may protect against diabetes, the risk of breast cancer is increased, she stated. “Our results cannot be used for giving advice to patients or anyone else,” she noted.

“Generally, people should stick to guidelines already there, which in most countries are 7 and 14 drinks per week for women and men,” Tolstrup said. “I wouldn’t advise non-drinker to start drinking for their health either.”

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