Many people believe that they must reduce or completely eliminate alcohol consumption once they have been diagnosed with diabetes. Many doctors will also tell you that long term alcohol consumption induces insulin resistance. Neither of these statement is true however as most clinical studies into the effects of alcohol on diabetes have found that:
1) The incidence of diabetes is much lower among light and moderate alcohol drinkers compared to those that abstain from drinking or drink heavily.
2) Light to moderate alcohol consumption actually improves insulin resistance in most diabetics.
An Italian study found that in type-2 diabetes, the action of insulin was improved with alcohol consumption and the improvement was due to an increase in insulin sensitivity, not an increase in insulin secretion. The study involved performing intravenous glucose tolerance tests on 8 healthy individuals and 8 type-2 diabetics. The test was performed twice, once were the subjects sipped tapped water for an hour prior to, and during the test. The second time the subjects sipped up to 40 grams of alcohol in the form of vodka.
While both groups showed improved glucose tolerance after alcohol consumption, the improvement was more marked in the individuals with type-2 diabetes. The graph below shows the blood plasma glucose concentrations for tje type-2 diabetics during the test. The results with alcohol are in black while the results with water in white. The bar graph shows the area under the curve of the line graph.
The researchers concluded that “The present study shows that alcohol intake improves insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance in type-2 diabetic subjects and this amelioration is proportionally greater compared with matched healthy volunteers.”
An analysis of 15 studies involving over 350,000 men in total on the effects of alcohol consumption on type-2 diabetes incidence found that moderate drinkers were 30% less likely to develop diabetes than heavy drinkers or those who didn’t drink at all. The findings are reported in issue 28, 2005, of the medical journal diabetes care.
While excessive long-term alcohol consumption can certainly impair insulin function both in diabetics and non-diabetics and is associated with high blood pressure, brain damage, liver damage and heart disease, light to moderate alcohol consumption has been shown to have health benefits such as a decreased risk of strokes and heart attacks. There is no reason why diabetics cannot enjoy moderate alcohol consumption in the same way non-diabetics can and in-fact moderate consumption does appear to have some benefits in terms of an improvement in insulin resistance.