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Diabetes Health Center

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Moderate Drinking May Curb Diabetes Risk

But Too Much Alcohol Raises Risks, Especially Among Women
WebMD Health News

Oct. 8, 2003 -- Having a drink or sometimes two per day may help overweight adults substantially reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes. But bellying up to the bar any more than that may dramatically raise those risks, especially among women.

A new study shows that moderate alcohol consumption lowered the risk of type 2 diabetes by about 30%-40% among overweight men and women.

But for lean or normal-weight women, drinking more than two drinks a day nearly tripled their risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Researchers say the results support previous studies that show drinking moderate amounts of alcohol may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.

"On the other hand, binge drinking and high alcohol consumption may increase the risk of type 2 diabetes in women," write researcher Sofia Carlsson, PhD, of Korolinska University Hospital in Stockholm, Sweden, and colleagues.

A Little Alcohol Goes a Long Way

Researchers say this is the first study to look at the effects of alcohol consumption and diabetes risk among a large group of twins, which allows them to control for hereditary and early childhood factors that may have contributed to diabetes risk.

The study, published in the October issue of Diabetes Care, involved 22,778 twins who were born in Finland before 1958. Information on alcohol, smoking, diet, physical activity, medical, and social conditions was gathered by periodic surveys.

Over 20 years of follow-up, 580 cases of type 2 diabetes were diagnosed among the participants.

Researchers found that among both men and women, moderate drinkers tended to have lower incidence of type 2 diabetes than those who drank rarely or abstained from alcohol.

Moderate drinking was defined as up to 30 grams of alcohol a day in men and up to 20 grams per day in women. A standard drink, such as a 12-ounce bottle of beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine, or 1.5-ounce shot of 80-proof distilled spirits, has between 11 and 14 grams of alcohol.

Too Much Alcohol Raises Risks

The study also showed that lean and normal-weight women who drank more than 20 grams of alcohol per day had higher rates of diabetes than others. But a similar risk was not found among overweight women or in men.

In addition, binge drinking (drinking large amounts of alcohol in a single setting) was not associated with a higher risk of diabetes among men, but binge drinking among women nearly doubled the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Researchers say the results of this study suggest that the protective effect of alcohol may primarily concern overweight men and women, and the increased diabetes risks associated with alcohol use primarily concern normal-weight or lean women.

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