Alcohol Helps Prevent Type-2 Diabetes, Especially for the Overweight

Scientists found large differences in benefits based on gender and weight
Feb 29, 2012

Several studies have found that moderate alcohol consumption helps prevent type-2 diabetes. A new report from a team of European researchers supports that but also finds that the benefits depend on a lot of factors, including the gender of the wine drinker and their weight.

For this study, scheduled to be published in the Journal of Internal Medicine, researchers at numerous medical centers in Northern European countries, as well as Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom, pooled resources to examine the lifestyle habits of nearly 30,000 people. Those subjects are part of a larger, ongoing study, the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC), which is investigating the impact of food habits on the rate of chronic disease development in more than 520,000 participants.

In general, the scientists found that moderate alcohol consumption is associated with a 13 percent lower risk of type-2 diabetes in men and 20 percent in women. Still, the researchers felt the need to dig deeper into the data.

They found that women who drank fortified wine were 32 percent less likely to develop diabetes and enjoyed the highest level of protection. However, they caution that the pool of women who preferred fortified wine over other beverages is quite small. Women who preferred table wine showed around a 10 percent lower risk than nondrinkers, and they may better represent the population at large. Moderate wine-drinking men enjoyed a 16 percent lower chance of developing diabetes.

Moderate alcohol consumption also helped reduce the diabetes risk in overweight subjects more than those of average weight. The scientists theorized that overweight men and women metabolize ethanol at a higher rate. "In our study we could only observe that the different risks of diabetes with moderate alcohol consumption for men and women were to some extent explained by fat distribution," author Joline Beulens, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the Division Julius Center in the Netherlands, told Wine Spectator. "Our study could not, however, investigate how this works."

The researchers added that their observations indicate that it’s the alcohol that appears to be doing the good work, based on genetic reactions to proteins found in body fat. And the more subjects drank, the more protection they could expect, though past 50 grams of alcohol per day, all categories saw an increase in risk.

The team believes that the better results among wine drinkers, however, are likely explained by factors independent of the beverage, rather than any substance in wine. "Previous studies have shown that wine drinkers differ from drinkers of other beverages by consuming a healthier diet and being less likely to smoke," the authors wrote.

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