The latest results from the ongoing Nurses Health Study II suggest women who consume a light to moderate amount of alcohol each day may decrease their risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Research on diabetes and alcohol intake has produced conflicting results, with most studies showing a higher risk among heavy drinkers and a lower risk among light to moderate drinkers. Scientists speculate lighter drinking may have a positive effect because alcohol increases insulin sensitivity and slows blood sugar intake from a meal. Most of these studies, however, have been conducted among men.
In this study, researchers used data from the nurses' study to assess diabetes risk in women who never drank or who consumed light, moderate, or heavy amounts of alcohol. Participants were between ages 25 and 42 when the study began in 1989. All completed detailed questionnaires related to diet and health every two years through 1999. For this study, women who already had diabetes or other medical conditions at the start of the study were excluded.
About 930 of the nearly 110,000 women in the study developed diabetes during the follow up. Compared with women who never drank, women who consumed light to moderate amounts of alcohol were significantly less likely to have developed diabetes, even after researchers adjusted the findings to take other factors that could have led to diabetes into account. The effect was most prominent among women who mainly drank beer and wine. Heavier drinkers, however, were found to have an increased risk of developing the disease when compared with the light to moderate drinkers.