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Diabetics Can Also Reap the Benefits of Moderate Drinking

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Ajani says that many heart experts think alcohol protects the heart by increasing the level of HDL, the so-called "good" cholesterol. Many diabetics have problems with cholesterol levels, he adds. Ajani says that among the nearly 2,800 physicians with diabetes who participated in the study, those who reported moderate alcohol consumption had a 40% decreased risk of death from heart disease compared to those who didn't drink.

William Kannel, professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine, tells WebMD, "Most of the measures recommended for the general population seem to provide an even greater benefit in the diabetic." He says, for example, that controlling high blood pressure in diabetics results in a "an even greater risk reduction than in the nondiabetic."

"The important message here is that diabetes itself is a very hazardous condition for [heart] health and, in fact, diabetics seem to have a very high risk of bad outcomes." For that reason, says Kannel, diabetic patients should be very carefully monitored. Kannel was not involved in these studies but is the former director of a landmark study on heart disease called the Framingham Study.

But, Kannel says, "I wouldn't recommend alcohol for any segment of the population without stressing the need for moderate intake ... diabetic patients also need further attention toward control and avoidance of smoking, as well as good blood pressure and [cholesterol] control."

Timothy J. Regan, MD, writes in an editorial accompanying the study by Solomon that the "patient who is abstinent or using light to moderate amounts of alcohol should discuss the risks and benefits of alcohol consumption with a physician." Regan tells WebMD that he has some concern about the possible abuse of alcohol by patients who may misinterpret these latest studies. Additionally, he says, "Some published data suggest that at two drinks a day, a woman's risk of breast cancer increases." Regan is professor of medicine at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in Newark.

In a second editorial, William S. Weintraub, MD, professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, writes that "it would seem that moderate alcohol consumption is safe and may be beneficial from the point of view of [heart disease] risk in selected populations, both diabetic and nondiabetic. However, there is probably not sufficient evidence to recommend alcohol consumption to decrease risk in any population."

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