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Moderate Drinking Lowers Diabetes Risk

A recent study from several universities in the Netherlands shows as much as a 40% decrease in the risk of type 2 diabetes for people who drink alcohol in moderation as compared to people who abstain altogether. Reuters is reporting today about the study, which went online last week at the website for the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The study itself, entitled the “Combined Effect of Alcohol Consumption and Lifestyle Behaviors on Risk of Type 2 Diabetes,” concluded that even a healthier overall lifestyle could not explain the lower risk brought upon by moderate alcohol consumption, as had been previously thought.

From the Abstract:

Objective: We studied whether moderate alcohol consumption is associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes in adults with combined low-risk lifestyle behaviors.

Design: We prospectively examined 35,625 adults of the Dutch European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC-NL) cohort aged 20–70 y, who were free of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer at baseline (1993–1997). In addition to moderate alcohol consumption (women: 5.0–14.9 g/d; men: 5.0–29.9 g/d), we defined low-risk categories of 4 lifestyle behaviors: optimal weight [body mass index (in kg/m2) <25], physically active (≥30 min of physical activity/d), current nonsmoker, and a healthy diet [upper 2 quintiles of the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet]. Results: During a median of 10.3 y, we identified 796 incident cases of type 2 diabetes. Compared with teetotalers, hazard ratios of moderate alcohol consumers for risk of type 2 diabetes in low-risk lifestyle strata after multivariable adjustments were 0.35 (95% CI: 0.17, 0.72) when of a normal weight, 0.65 (95% CI: 0.46, 0.91) when physically active, 0.54 (95% CI: 0.41, 0.71) when nonsmoking, and 0.57 (95% CI: 0.39, 0.84) when consuming a healthy diet. When ≥3 low-risk lifestyle behaviors were combined, the hazard ratio for incidence of type 2 diabetes in moderate alcohol consumers after multivariable adjustments was 0.56 (95% CI: 0.32, 1.00).

Conclusion: In subjects already at lower risk of type 2 diabetes on the basis of multiple low-risk lifestyle behaviors, moderate alcohol consumption was associated with an approximately 40% lower risk compared with abstention.

All good news, right? Well, one feature that’s ubiquitous every time another study has great news about drinking beer drives me absolutely crazy. The Reuters’ report concludes with this unnecessary disclaimer, as they all seem to.

That said, [the lead research scientist] also noted that experts do not recommend that non-drinkers take up moderate drinking simply because it is related to lower risks of certain diseases. Alcohol always carries the potential for abuse, and the known risks of problem drinking have to be balanced against the possible health benefits of moderate drinking.

It’s as if they’re afraid that if they don’t say something like this, that people will go on a drinking binge, thinking it’s good for them all of a sudden. Can they really think so little of their audience? Or is simply being worried about liability? Either way, it drive me to drink.

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