NEW ORLEANS — Enjoy a glass of vino with your meal every now and again? Turns out you might be doing your body good. Researchers from Tulane University report that drinking wine with dinner could help stave off diabetes.
Compounds in grape skin combat the metabolic disease by reducing blood sugar levels, say scientists. But drinking beer or liquor with food increases the risk.
The finding is based on data from 312,000 British residents who describe themselves as regular drinkers. Those who had a glass of wine or two — particularly red — at mealtimes were 14 percent less likely to develop the metabolic disease over the next decade.
“Drinking moderate amounts of wine with meals may prevent Type 2 diabetes if you do not have another health condition that may be negatively affected by moderate alcohol consumption and in consultation with your doctor,” says lead author Dr. Hao Ma, a biostatistical analyst at the Tulane University Obesity Research Center, in a statement.
Good news for wine drinkers
Wine is rich in healthy plant chemicals including resveratrol, which acts like an antioxidant. Red varieties are particularly abundant in the compound.
“The effects of alcohol consumption on health have been described as a double-edged sword because of its apparent abilities to cut deeply in either direction – harmful or helpful, depending on how it is consumed,” says Ma. “Previous studies have focused on how much people drink and have had mixed results. Very few studies have focused on other drinking details, such as the timing of alcohol intake.”
Moderate drinking is defined as a small glass of wine (150ml) or other alcoholic beverage daily for women, and up to two for men.
“Clinical trials have also found that moderate drinking may have some health benefits, including on glucose metabolism,” adds Ma. “However, it remains unclear whether glucose metabolism benefits translate into a reduction of type 2 diabetes. In our study, we sought to determine if the association between alcohol intake and risk of type 2 diabetes might differ by the timing of alcohol intake with respect to meals.”
The participants were tracked for about eleven years on average. They did not have diabetes, cardiovascular diseases or cancer at the outset. Their average age 56, slightly more than half were women and 95 percent were white. Those who reduced alcohol consumption due to illness, doctor’s advice or pregnancy were excluded.
During the follow-up period about 8,600 developed Type 2 diabetes. Those who drank with their meal — rather than without eating food — cut their risk by 14 percent. The potential benefit was evident only among the former group. Specific times were not collected. It was also mainly among those who drank wine rather than other types of alcohol.
Alcohol still raises risks of many other conditions
While the finding is good news for wine lovers, researchers still say consuming alcohol is best in moderation. That’s because it’s also linked to high blood pressure, obesity, stroke, breast cancer, liver disease, depression, suicide, accidents, alcohol abuse and alcoholism. The risks increase as the amount of alcohol an individual drinks rises. For some cancers and other health conditions, the risk increases even at very low levels of alcohol consumption – less than one drink daily.
The American Heart Association and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that adults who do not drink alcohol should not start. Among those who drink alcohol regularly, they should talk with their doctors about the benefits and risks of consuming alcohol in moderation.
Some people should not drink at all, including women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant, people under the age of 21 and people with certain health conditions.
Professor Robert Eckel, of the University of Colorado, who was not involved in the study, says the relationship between alcohol and Type 2 diabetes remains controversial. Eckel is a former president of the American Heart Association. “These data suggest that it is not the alcohol with meals but other ingredients in wine, perhaps antioxidants, that may be the factor in potentially reducing new-onset type 2 diabetes,” he notes. “While the type of wine, red versus white, needs to be defined, and validation of these findings and mechanisms of benefit are needed, the results suggest that if you are consuming alcohol with meals, wine may be a better choice.”
The study was presented at the American Heart Association Epidemiology, Prevention, Lifestyle & Cardiometabolic Health Conference in Chicago.
South West News Service writer Mark Waghorn contributed to this report.