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Could Drinking Alcohol Lower Your Diabetes Risk?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 29 million Americans have diabetes. Another 86 million have prediabetes, which means their blood sugar levels are higher than what is healthy but not high enough to be officially classified as type 2 diabetes.

When it comes to preventing diabetes, most people know that a healthy home-cooked diet and exercise are key. But should this healthy diet include alcohol? According to new research published in Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes, people who drink moderately may have a lower risk of developing diabetes than those who abstain completely.

New Danish Study

The study, which collected its data from over 70,000 Danish people, found the lowest risk of developing type 2 diabetes in people who consumed moderate amounts of alcohol. This was in comparison to both nondrinkers and heavy drinkers.

“Moderate” was defined as:

  • Fourteen drinks per week for men
  • Nine drinks per week for women

A “standard drink” was defined as any of the following:

  • 12 ounces of beer
  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits

According to the study results, male moderate drinkers had a 43% lower risk of developing diabetes and female moderate drinkers had a 58% lower risk of developing diabetes than their abstaining counterparts.

Spreading the drinks out mattered too. Both male and female participants who consumed alcohol three to four days per week had a lower risk– 27% lower for men and 32% lower for women– of developing diabetes than those who drank less than once per week.

There was no conclusive data on binge drinking and diabetes risk because so few participants reported this habit.

The study used data from the Danish Health Examination Study and five years’ worth of self-reported drinking habits. These reports came from 41,847 Danish women and 28,704 Danish men.

Drink Choice Matters

The study also revealed that not all alcohol was created equal when it comes to diabetes risk.

For both male and female participants, consuming seven or more glasses of wine per week was associated with a lower risk of developing diabetes than people who had less than one drink per week. This correlation between wine and diabetes has also been examined in the past, and a similarly positive result–a 20% lower risk of diabetes– was found then too.

Researchers hypothesize that natural phytochemical compounds found in red wine could have beneficial effects on an individual’s blood sugar levels.

Couple drinks red wine on a blanket

For male study participants, drinking between one and six beers per week was linked to a 21% lower diabetes risk than men who drank less than one beer per week. For women, there was no positive or negative correlation between beer and diabetes risk.

The study results are especially interesting when it comes to spirits. For men, there seemed to be no correlation between hard liquor and risk of developing diabetes. Women who drank seven or more shots per week, on the other hand, had an 83% higher chance of developing diabetes.

(When it comes to liquor and this study, it should be noted that a relatively small number of participants reported heavy consumption of spirits.)

The drinking frequency was also important; regardless of total amount, the volunteers who drank three to four times per week had a lower risk compared with those who drank only once a week.

Should You Increase Alcohol Consumption?

We can answer that question in one word: no.

The results of this study are valuable in many ways. A major strength was the large number of people surveyed. The Danish research study also produced results consistent with the correlation that previous studies had established between wine and a lowered risk of developing diabetes.

That being said, the study has its fair share of limitations. These include the:

  • Data’s self-reported nature
  • Fact that it was only conducted on Danish participants
  • Lack of control over factors like diet
  • Low number of people in some of the drinking pattern subgroups

The study’s results shouldn’t be seen as encouragement to drink regularly in the name of promoting one’s health. The results are correlational without necessarily being causational, and there are other reasons why people who practice moderation when it comes to alcohol could have a lower risk of developing diabetes.

“I do not advise patients to start drinking just to reduce risk of developing diabetes. I also counsel against binge drinking, which has deleterious health effects,” said Dr. Ronald Tamler, medical director of the Mount Sinai Clinical Diabetes Institute.

Physicians generally deem it fine for most healthy individuals to have a glass or two of wine with dinner. For people who don’t have diabetes or other health conditions, moderate beer and/or wine consumption is usually not harmful. But that doesn’t mean a current nondrinker should start drinking in order to improve his or her health.

If you have any questions about your current level of alcohol consumption, it’s best to talk openly with your healthcare provider.

(Did you know that yogurt and diabetes risk is a frequently discussed topic too?)

Conclusion

So could moderate drinking lower your diabetes risk? Maybe. But the link between the two could also have to do with a variety of factors, including other lifestyle choices made by those who practice moderation. For many health-related topics, moderation and balance are key.

If it weren’t for clinical research participants, the interesting new study from Denmark would not have been possible. Of course, the same is true in our home nation of America, and right here in Vestavia Hills! If you have diabetes and live in the Birmingham area, you may want to consider participating in a clinical trial. Not only would you be a modern-day superhero for helping advance modern medicine, you’d also receive premium medical care at our state-of-the-art facility. To learn more, please fill out the short form on the righthand side of this page or give us a call at (205) 757-8208. We also offer volunteer opportunities for a variety of other conditions.

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