Regular alcohol consumption could cut diabetes risk, study finds

Regularly drinking a moderate amount of certain alcoholic drinks could reduce a person’s chances of developing diabetes, according to a study.

Consuming alcohol three or four days a week was associated with a reduced risk of developing diabetes – a 27% reduction in men and a 32% reduction in women – compared with abstaining, scientists found.

Wine was considered particularly beneficial, probably because it has chemical compounds that improve blood sugar balance, researchers in Denmark found.

Gin could have the opposite effect, along with other spirits, increasing women’s chances of getting diabetes by 83%.

Experts said the findings, published in the journal Diabetologia, should not be seen as a green light to drink more than existing NHS guidelines suggest.

The authors of the research, led by Prof Janne Tolstrup from the University of Southern Denmark, wrote: “Our findings suggest that alcohol drinking frequency is associated with the risk of diabetes and that consumption of alcohol over three to four weekdays is associated with the lowest risks of diabetes, even after taking average weekly alcohol consumption into account.”

In the past, studies have suggested that light to moderate drinking can reduce the risk of developing diabetes but there has been no research into the frequency of alcohol consumption.

Scientists studied data on 70,551 men and women who took part in a Danish survey. Respondents were quizzed about their drinking habits and monitored for five years.

Afterwards, participants were followed up and 859 men and 887 women had developed diabetes. The investigation did not distinguish between the two forms of diabetes, type 1 and the much more common type 2.

For both genders, seven glasses of wine a week lowered the risk of diabetes by 25% to 30% compared with having less than one glass.

Drinking beer seemed to affect men and women differently. Men who drank one to six glasses of beer a week saw their chances of getting diabetes lowered by 21%, compared with men who drank less than one a week. There was no impact on women’s risk.

Dr Emily Burns, the head of research communications at Diabetes UK, said: “While these findings are interesting, we wouldn’t recommend people see them as a green light to drink in excess of the existing NHS guidelines, especially as the impact of regular alcohol consumption on the risk of type 2 will be different from one person to the next.”

Guidelines suggest that men and women should drink no more than 14 units of alcohol a week. That equates to about six pints of beer. It should be consumed over the course of three days or more, with some days of abstinence.
Burns said: “Type 2 diabetes is a serious condition, and around three in five cases can be prevented or delayed by eating healthily, moving more and losing weight if you’re overweight. If you’re worried about your risk of developing the condition, we’d advise you to speak to a healthcare professional.”