Harvard Women's Health Watch

Moderate alcohol consumption may reduce diabetes risk

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The American Diabetes Association counsels women with diabetes to follow the recommendations for alcohol consumption that apply to most adult women: a drink a day is fine, especially because it may reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. A new analysis by a team of Chinese researchers indicates that the same drink could reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the first place.

The researchers poured over 26 studies on alcohol and diabetes that involved 706,716 people, over half of whom were women. They determined that compared with teetotalers, light drinkers (those who averaged up to one drink a day) had a 17% lower risk of developing diabetes, and that those who averaged one to two drinks daily had a 26% lower risk. However, alcohol consumption heavier than that had little or no effect on diabetes risk. When they broke down the data further, they found that the benefits of light to moderate drinking were greater for women than men.

The researchers speculate that alcohol may increase the body's response to insulin. However, they that note that heavy drinking is associated with liver disease, which in turn raises the risk of diabetes. The results, published in the March 2015 issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, provide another reason to raise a glass if you're so inclined, but they don't suggest refilling it.