A 12-year study on the effects of alcohol on diabetes has found that consumption of alcohol may reduce the risk of developing type-2 diabetes by more than a third. The reduction in diabetes risk was apparent even at relatively high levels of alcohol consumption (more than 28 standard drinks a week).
The researchers used data from 46,892 male health professionals who were sent questionnaires every two years for the 12 year study period. The participants were questioned on their use of alcohol and cigarettes, diet, lifestyle, family history of diabetes, and their use of medications.
The group as a whole consumed on average less than 6g of alcohol a day. When the men were grouped according to their level of alcohol consumption, the researchers found that men who consumed an average of 10g to 14.9g of alcohol daily (around one standard drink) had a 35% reduced risk of developing type-2 diabetes compared to non-drinkers.
Furthermore the group consuming between 30 and 49.9g of alcohol daily (around three standard drinks) had the highest reduction in risk with 43% reduced risk compared to non-drinkers. Even heavy drinkers who consumed more than 50g of alcohol a day reduced their risk of type-2 diabetes compared to non-drinkers by 39%.
The beneficial effects of alcohol were lessened amongst those who consumed alcohol sporadically, suggesting that daily consumption of small amounts of alcohol reduces diabetes risk more so than heavy alcohol consumption on one or two nights a week.
The type of alcoholic beverage consumed did not matter with beer, white wine, red wine, and liquor all reducing diabetes risk by a similar amount.
Alcohol consumption is believed to increases both the amount of insulin secreted by the pancreas and an individuals sensitivity to insulin. The effects of alcohol on sugar metabolism are believed to be relatively short lived which may explain why frequent, low-level consumption of alcohol provides a greater benefit than periodic consumption of large amounts of alcohol.
The studies conclusions that even heavy alcohol consumption is associated with reduced diabetes risk goes against the findings of of similar studies which have tended to find that the beneficial effects of alcohol are present at only light to moderate levels of consumption.
The study, which was published in October 2001, appears in issue 50 of the journal Diabetes.
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