AUG 16, 2017 5:35 AM PDT

Can Moderate Drinking Stave Off Diabetes?

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

Scientists don’t usually have much good things to say about alcohol. But for once, this substance is making the headlines for a positive health association. That’s right, researchers have found that a link between moderate alcohol consumption and lower diabetes risk.

Image credit: Pixabay.com

According to a study from Denmark, researchers say people who consume a moderate amount of alcohol have a lower risk of developing diabetes. Specifically, the scientists gathered data from over 70,000 individuals who provided their daily habits, including alcohol use, in detail, for several years. During the study, 1746 people (about 2.5 percent) developed diabetes. When the scientists compared drinking habits between those who developed diabetes versus those who didn’t, they found that alcohol seemed to favor lower diabetes risks.

But what’s a “moderate” amount? The scientists defined this to be a few glasses of alcohol three to four times a week. The best risk reduction was tied to drinking 14 alcoholic beverages each week for men, and nine alcoholic beverages per week for women, which corresponded to a 27% reduction in men and a 32% reduction in women.  

“Keep consumption at moderate levels, about seven drinks a week for women and 14 for men. Alcohol is associated with many diseases and conditions — at the same level where it may protect against diabetes, the risk of other diseases is increased,” said Janne S. Tolstrup, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Southern Denmark, and the study’s senior author.

The "findings suggest that alcohol drinking frequency is associated with risk of diabetes, and that consumption of alcohol over three to four days per week is associated with the lowest risk of diabetes, even after taking average weekly alcohol consumption into account," the authors concluded in their study.

But the study is far from a green light for alcohol consumption. Health experts generally agree that starting an alcohol habit purely to take advantage of these supposed health benefits may backfire. And while the researchers of the study considered this to be moderate, the amount seems to be on the high side. Furthermore, it’s important to note that alcohol consumption has been linked to other detrimental health conditions, including increased risks for breast cancer and melanoma. As such, anyone who engages in drinking should weigh the supposed risks and benefits accordingly.

Additional sources: CNN, Live Science

About the Author
I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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