Many of us drink the occasional glass of wine to disconnect our brain at the end of the day. The alcoholic beverage not only acts as a stress reliever, it can also protect us from diabetes. A new study published in Diabetologia found a moderate to high intake of wine is associated with a lower risk of developing diabetes.

Researchers from the National Institute of Public Health at the University of Southern Denmark believe its protective effects could be attributed to the role polyphenols have on managing blood sugar levels. Although the mechanism is still hazy, researchers suggest higher concentrations of tannins have an inhibiting effect on the action of carbohydrate-reducing enzymes. In other words, the presence of polyphenols in the body will influence the effect foods have on blood sugar levels during and after consumption.

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In the study, men and women who consumed seven or more drinks of wine per week had a 25 to 30 percent lower risk of diabetes compared to those who had less than one drink of wine per week.

"Our findings suggest that alcohol drinking frequency is associated with the risk of diabetes and that consumption of alcohol over 3-4 weekdays is associated with the lowest risks of diabetes, even after taking average weekly alcohol consumption into account," wrote the study authors, in their paper.

Previous research on alcohol use and diabetes consistently shows light to moderate alcohol consumption (how many drinks are consumed) is linked with a lower risk of diabetes compared with abstention in men and women. But, studies that have examined the role of drinking patterns — the number of days drinking per week rather than volume — on diabetes have been inconclusive, along with the effect of different types of drinks. This prompted the research team to examine the effects of drinking frequency (number of drinks per week) on diabetes risk, and also consider the influence of specific beverages on blood sugar levels.

Data was drawn from the Danish Health Examination Survey from 2007-2008 — a survey that asks Danish citizens aged 18 and over questions about their lifestyle and health. Over 70,000 survey respondents gave details of their alcohol consumption. Those who were diagnosed with diabetes or women who were pregnant, or women who have recently given birth were excluded.

Questionnaires asked survey respondents to give details about their drinking patterns, whether they're abstainers, lifetime and current to reduce the risk of bias as a result of those who abstain because of health issues. In addition, drinking frequency was assessed: less than 1 day per week; 1-2 days/ week; 3-4 days/ week and 5-7 days/ week. The frequency of binge drinking — 5 or more beverages on one occasion — was reported as either never; less than one day per week; and once or more per week.

The frequency of consumption of wine, beer, and spirits was assessed as less than one drink per week, 1-6 drinks per week and 7 or more drinks per week for women and 7-13 and 14 or more drinks per week for men. Participants also self-reported the type of beverage they had and the overall average weekly amount of alcohol consumed. In a 5-year follow up, respondents had to state whether their drinking frequency increased, decreased, or remained stable over the last five years.

Information on participants' incidence of diabetes was obtained from the Danish National Diabetes Register. The researchers took into account age, sex, level of education, body mass index, smoking status, diet — whether or not participants ate fiber-rich bread or grain, vegetables, salad, and fruit and fish — leisure time activity, current or previous hypertension and family history of diabetes. In total during the follow up, 859 men and 887 women developed diabetes.

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Now, when it comes to weekly alcohol intake, participants who drank moderately had a lower risk of diabetes. For example, men who consumed 14 drinks per week had a 43 percent lower risk compared to those who did not drink, and women who had 9 drinks per week had a 58 percent lower risk compared to women non-drinkers. Drinking alcohol 3 to 4 days per week was associated with a 27 percent lower risk in men and a 32 percent lower risk in women compared to those who drank less than one beverage per week. Meanwhile, there was no relationship between binge drinking and diabetes risk.

Next to wine, beer also had a positive effect on lowering diabetes risk. Drinking 1 to 6 beers per week was associated with a 21 percent lower risk of diabetes in men compared to men who drank less than 1 beer per week, but in women there was no relation. Meanwhile, there was no relationship between the average weekly alcohol amount of spirits and diabetes in men. But, women who had 7 or more drinks of spirits per week had an 83 percent increased risk of diabetes compared to women who consumed less than 1 drink of spirits per week.

Overall, these findings suggest moderate drinking, 3 to 4 days per week, can have a protective effect when it comes to diabetes. This study aligns with an older study that found having a drink or two per day can lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes — a problem with the body that causes blood sugar levels to rise higher than normal — by as much as 30 percent. Here, the benefits of alcohol were seen regardless of whether someone was overweight or not.

The prevalence of diabetes in the U.S. is high — 9.4 percent of the population has the disease, with type 2 being the most common. Several risk factors for type 2 diabetes include lifestyle factors, body weight, especially around the waist, and family history. With a growing aging population, it is imperative to consider preventative measures that can protect against diabetes in the future.

Drinking the occasional glass (or glasses) of wine can do our health some good, and that's something worth drinking to as we age.

Source: Holst C, Becker U, Jorgensen ME et al. Alcohol drinking patterns and risk of diabetes: a cohort study of 70,551 men and women from the general Danish population. Diabetologia. 2017.

See Also:

What Is Berry Wine? How This Non-Alcoholic Beverage Can Help Treat Diabetes

Binge Drinking Just Once a Week May Raise Risk of Diabetes