Researchers from Tulane University's School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine found evidence linking moderate alcohol consumption during meals with a lowered risk of type 2 diabetes. The team presented preliminary research at the American Heart Association's Epidemiology, Prevention, Lifestyle & Cardiometabolic Health Conference earlier this month.
"The effects of alcohol consumption on health have been described as a double-edged sword because of its apparent abilities to cut deeply in either direction—harmful or helpful, depending on how it is consumed," said study author Dr. Hao Ma in a statement. "Previous studies have focused on how much people drink and have had mixed results. Very few studies have focused on other drinking details, such as the timing of alcohol intake."
Past studies have found evidence that wine consumption, particularly red wine consumption, can decrease the risk of developing diabetes. Some research has also found that those who have diabetes can reduce the health risks of the disease with wine and a healthy diet.
Gathering data from the UK Biobank, a study collecting health information on several hundred thousand participants, Ma and his team followed the progress of 310,000 participants over the course of 11 years to determine whether drinking during meals could affect type 2 diabetes. Of the tracked participants, about 8,600 developed diabetes.
The Tulane team found that participants who regularly consumed moderate amounts of alcohol—one to two standard-sized drinks—during meals had a 14 percent lower chance of developing diabetes. What's particular about these findings is the emphasis on the timing of wine consumption. Although moderate levels of drinking any alcoholic beverage at any time were beneficial, participants who consumed, on average, a glass or two of wine with a meal each day were the least likely to develop diabetes. Participants who consumed higher levels of beer and liquor were more likely to develop diabetes than non-drinkers or those who consumed higher amounts of wine.
As Ma notes, this could be attributed to other factors, such as the fact most wine drinkers also eat well and exercise regularly. It could also be due to health-beneficial components found in wine such as polyphenols, he says. (One limitation of the study? It relied on self-reported data.)
While Ma affirms that the reasons for this correlation are still unclear, he cites his findings and a previous clinical trial that showed alcohol consumption during meals lowered post-meal spikes in blood sugar as hopeful markers. "In addition to slowing the absorption of alcohol, previous clinical trials showed that consuming alcohol with meals might more effectively reduce the oxidative stress caused by meals as compared with consuming alcohol outside of meals," Ma told Wine Spectator. "And it is known that oxidative stress is closely related to type 2 diabetes risk."
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