Latest scientific news 28 October 2014

Moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages and diabetes prevention

A Greek study reported that those individuals who consumed up to one glass per day had a 53% lower risk of developing diabetes within 10 years compared to abstainers.

Diabetes mellitus is a leading cause of death and disability worldwide. According to the International Diabetes Federation, its global prevalence was approximately 8% in 2011 and is predicted to rise up to 10% by 2030. However, many governments and public health planners remain largely unaware of the current prevalence of diabetes and pre-diabetic conditions, the potential future increase in prevalence and the serious complications associated with the disease. Raising the awareness of the high prevalence and the related risk factors could thus lead to new policies and strategies for prevention and management.

Lifestyle changes, such as increased physical activity and controlling body weight are considered of utmost importance for preventing Type-2-Diabetes (T2DM). Regular light to moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages is considered part of a healthy lifestyle because it is consistently associated with a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease and total mortality. Some questions concerning diabetes, however, remain.

To investigate the effect of alcohol consumption on diabetes incidence, a group of Greek researchers carried out a prospective study with a random sample of 1514 men (18-89 years old) and 1528 women (18-87 years old) who were participants in the ATTICA study (Athens metropolitan area, Greece). Among various other characteristics, the average daily alcohol intakes (abstention, low, moderate, high) and types of alcoholic drinks were evaluated. Diabetes was defined according to American Diabetes Association criteria.

The participants were followed up for a decade. After 10 years, 13.4% of men and 12.4% of women developed diabetes. After making various statistical adjustments, those who consumed up to 1 glass of alcoholic beverage /day had a 53% lower risk developing diabetes compared to abstainers. With higher and lower consumption of alcoholic beverages, there was an increased risk resulting in a significant U-shaped relationship between quantity of alcoholic drinks and diabetes incidence. A specific effect concerning the types of alcoholic drinks could not be found. Notably, the protective effect of low consumption of alcoholic beverages on diabetes incidence was more prominent among individuals who followed a Mediterranean type diet and who had fewer cardio-metabolic risk factors.

The scientists concluded that the results revealed a protective effect of modest alcohol consumption against the 10-year diabetes risk. This may be considered a future diabetes prevention strategy.

Koloverou E, Panagiotakos DB, Pitsavos C, et al. Effects of alcohol consumption and the metabolic syndrome on 10-year incidence of diabetes: The ATTICA study. Diabetes Metab. 2014 Sep 1. 

For more information about this article, read the scientific abstract here.