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Frequent alcohol consumption associated with lowest risk for diabetes

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July 28, 2017

Men who report consuming at least 14 alcoholic drinks per week and women who report consuming at least nine alcoholic drinks per week have a lower risk for developing type 2 diabetes when compared with those who report light drinking or abstaining from alcohol, according to study findings published in Diabetologia.

“Our findings should be interpreted in the context of the existing literature,” Charlotte Holst, a PhD student with the National Institute of Public Health at the University of Southern Denmark, and colleagues wrote. “Other epidemiological studies have suggested that consumers of moderate levels of alcohol have a lower risk for type 2 diabetes compared with non-drinkers. In this study, frequent alcohol consumption, compared with less frequent consumption, was associated with a lower risk for diabetes.”

Holst and colleagues analyzed data from 70,551 adults without diabetes at baseline participating in the 2007-2008 Danish Health Examination Survey (41,847 women; mean age of men, 51 years; mean age of women, 48 years). Surveys included questions on alcohol drinking patterns, including defining lifetime vs. current abstainers (those who reported not drinking alcohol in the past year). Frequency of alcohol drinking was reported as less than 1 day per week, 1 to 2 days per week, 3 to 4 days per week or 5 to 7 days per week. Participants were also asked about their frequency of binge drinking (at least five beverages in one occasion), which was reported as never, less than 1 day per week, 1 day per week or more than 1 day per week. Average daily consumption of wine, beer and spirits was also reported over 7 days; one Danish standard drink corresponds to 12 g ethanol. The beverage-specific alcohol amount was defined as less than one drink per week, between one and six drinks per week, at least seven drinks per week for women, between 7 and 13 drinks for men and at least 14 drinks per week for men.

Over the course of follow-up, 859 men and 887 women developed type 2 diabetes, for an incidence rate of 619 and 436 per 100,000 person-years, respectively. Among alcohol drinkers, the median weekly alcohol amount was eight drinks for men and four drinks for women, according to researchers. Among men reporting consuming alcohol less than 1 day per week or between 1 and 2 days per week, beer represented about half the amount of alcohol consumed; for men reporting drinking alcohol 3 to 4 days per week or more, wine represented half of the total alcohol intake. For women across all alcohol frequency groups, wine represented more than half of all alcohol intake.

Researchers observed a U-shaped association between average weekly alcohol amount and diabetes risk for both men and women. The lowest risk for developing type 2 diabetes was observed among men reporting consuming 14 drinks per week (HR = 0.57; 95% CI, 0.47-0.7); for women, the lowest risk for diabetes was observed among those reporting consuming nine drinks per week (HR = 0.42; 95% CI, 0.35-0.51).

When assessing the risk between frequency of alcohol drinking and type 2 diabetes incidence, researchers found that only consumption of alcohol 3 to 4 days per week was associated with a reduced risk for developing diabetes, after adjusting for average weekly alcohol amount and other confounders; HR for men was 0.73 (95% CI, 0.59-0.94), and HR for women was 0.68 (95% CI, 0.53-0.88).

Among women, those who reported being lifetime abstainers of alcohol had a higher risk for developing diabetes when compared with those who reported consuming alcohol less than 1 day per week (HR = 1.77; 95% CI, 1.25-2.51).

When examining the joint effect of frequency of alcohol consumption and average weekly alcohol amount, researchers found that men who reported consuming at least 14 drinks over 5 to 7 weekdays had a lower risk for diabetes when compared with abstainers (HR = 0.75; 95% CI, 0.61-0.92). For women, consuming at least seven drinks over 3 to 4 days was associated with a lower risk for diabetes when compared with abstainers (HR = 0.72; 95% CI, 0.55-0.95).

Researchers found no clear association between reported binge drinking and diabetes risk, but they noted that this finding could be due to low statistical power. – by Regina Schaffer

Disclosure: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.

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