Type 2 diabetes: Two alcoholic drinks a day could reduce the risk, suggests one study

Type 2 diabetes is a life-long condition that requires daily consideration to ward off the risks. It is caused by poor insulin production in the body. Sticking to a nutritious diet helps to keep weight down – a major risk factor associated with the condition. It may come as a surprise that drinking alcohol in moderation may also lower the risk.

According to a study published by researchers at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and scientists in the Netherlands, Middle-aged men who drink alcohol only occasionally appear to reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by increasing their alcohol consumption to about one to two servings a day of beer, wine or liquor.

The researchers examined data on 38,031 middle-aged American men enrolled in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (HPFS) over a 20-year period from 1986 to 2006.

Alcohol use was tracked on food questionnaires every four years. The men studied were free of type 2 diabetes (and cancer) in 1990. A total of 1,905 cases of type 2 diabetes occurred during the study.

The study investigated how four-year changes in alcohol consumption affected the risk of type 2 diabetes over the next four years.

About 75 percent of the men remained fairly stable in their consumption pattern. An increase in intake to moderate levels over four years was associated with a 25 percent lower risk of type 2 diabetes among initial light drinkers.

Changes in one’s alcohol consumption pattern over time have a subsequent influence on one’s type 2 diabetes risk

Michel Joosten, Wageningen University

Reflecting on the results, lead author Michel Joosten of Wageningen University in the Netherlands, who conducted the study while a visiting scientist at HSPH, said: “Changes in one’s alcohol consumption pattern over time have a subsequent influence on one’s type 2 diabetes risk.”

He added: “Occasional drinkers who increase their intake to moderate levels – say one to two drinks a day — reduce their type 2 diabetes risk.”

Interestingly, the study found that if moderate drinkers lower their intake over time, their type 2 diabetes risk increases and becomes comparable to initial occasional drinkers.

No further risk reduction was seen when the men increased their intake beyond two drinks a day.

It is not clear why drinking in moderation may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes but the researchers of the study proposed a number of potential explanations.

They found indications that increased alcohol consumption to moderate levels was associated with improved Hemoglobin A1C levels, a measure of the average blood glucose level over the past two or three months.

Like previous findings, the researchers found alcohol increased adiponectin levels, a hormone that improves insulin sensitivity, protecting against type 2 diabetes.

In addition to alcohol, the researchers considered other factors that may influence diabetes risk, including weight, physical activity, smoking habits and diet.

Sleep is also strongly linked to the risks associated with type 2 diabetes. According to Diabetes.co.uk, “A good night’s sleep is important for our hormones to regulate a large number of the body’s processes, such as appetite, weight control and the immune system.”

Research has shown that sleep deprivation and insulin resistance may also be linked.

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