A glass with dinner can lower the risk of type 2 diabetes by 14%.
There’s a lot of confusion around the potential heart-health benefits of drinking wine. The recent American Heart Association’s (AHA) updated dietary guidelines suggest limiting alcohol intake for heart health and their recently published report indicates no amount of alcohol is good for your heart. But on the flip side, the Mediterranean diet, which is well known for its heart health benefits, suggests an occasional glass of red wine. Now, a new study from the AHA has found that drinking wine with meals is associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. So, is drinking wine good for you after all?
The research presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology, Prevention, Lifestyle & Cardiometabolic Health Conference 2022 reviewed health data from nearly 312,400 people who drink alcohol to determine if moderate drinking may be related to new-onset type 2 diabetes. The data came from the UK Biobank where participants self-reported their alcohol use between 2006 and 2010 and researchers followed up for nearly 11 years. Moderate drinking is defined as one glass of wine or other alcoholic beverage daily for women and up to two glasses daily for men, according to the press release.
At the start of the study, participants did not have diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or cancer. Of those who participated, the average age was 56 years old, a little more than half of the participants identified as female, and 95% were caucasian adults—one big limitation of the study. At this time it’s not known if these findings can be generalized for others.
During the follow-ups, about 8,600 of the adults in the study developed type 2 diabetes. The study concluded that consuming alcohol with meals was associated with a 14% lower risk of type 2 diabetes, compared to those who consumed alcohol without food.
The study isn’t necessarily a green light to make yourself a cocktail every night. The big takeaway is that in some cases, choosing wine over beer or liquor might be the move for you. The benefits of consuming wine were only found for those who drank while eating food and were most common for those who had wine over other types of alcohol. In fact, higher consumption of beer or liquor was associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes.
Additionally, more research needs to be done to determine how specifically drinking wine with a meal can impact the risk for type 2 diabetes. In this study, the time of day and nutritional value of the meal with wine was not reported, Robert H. Eckel, M.D., FAHA, a past president of the AHA who was not involved in the study, told Prevention.
“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,” Hao Ma, M.D., Ph.D., study author and a biostatistical analyst at the Tulane University Obesity Research Center in New Orleans said in the press release. “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.”
Dr. Ma added that moderate drinking has previously been linked to health benefits such as glucose metabolism, but not specifically the 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,” he said in the press release.
But alcohol consumption has also long been linked to long-term health risks like high blood pressure, obesity, stroke, breast cancer, liver disease, depression, and more, according to the press release.
“These data suggest that it’s 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. 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,” Dr. Eckel said in the press release.
Additionally, wine consumption should not be the only preventative measure taken to ward off type 2 diabetes. Other lifestyle factors are crucial in staving off type 2 diabetes including nutrition, physical activity, sleep, tobacco use, and body weight, Dr. Eckel told Prevention.
The AHA still advocates that adults who do not currently drink alcohol should not begin drinking, and those who choose to drink should consume alcohol in moderation. Ultimately, work with your healthcare provider to determine if swapping in wine for an alternative alcoholic beverage is something you should consider (if you already choose to drink).
“The message from this study is that 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,” Dr. Ma said in the press release.
To help prevent type 2 diabetes, Dr. Eckel told Prevention keeping your weight in check is the most important factor. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend adults older than 18 get 150 minutes of physical activity a week.
Arielle Weg is the associate editor at Prevention and loves to share her favorite wellness and nutrition obsessions. She previously managed content at The Vitamin Shoppe, and her work has also appeared in Women’s Health, Men’s Health, Cooking Light, MyRecipes, and more. You can usually find her taking an online workout class or making a mess in the kitchen, creating something delicious she found in her cookbook collection or saved on Instagram.
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