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Drinking alcohol regularly 'significantly protects against diabetes'

One to six beers per week reduced diabetes risk by 21% in men. Credit: PA

Drinking alcohol most days a week can significantly protect against developing diabetes, research has shown.

A study of more than 70,000 men and women found consuming alcohol three or four days a week was associated with a reduced risk of 27% in men and 32% in women, compared with abstaining.

Wine was found to have a bigger effect than beer, probably because it contains chemical compounds that improve blood sugar balance, scientists said.

But there was a warning to women to stay clear of the gin bottle. A daily tipple of "mothers' ruin" or other spirits increased the diabetes risk to women by 83%.

Wine was found to have a bigger effect on diabetes that beer. Credit: PA

Previous studies had already suggested that light to moderate alcohol consumption can cut the risk of diabetes, but the new research is the first to focus on drinking frequency.

The study and its findings

  • Scientists studied data on 70,551 men and women taking part in a large Danish health survey
  • They were quizzed about their drinking habits and monitored for five years
  • During the follow-up period, a total of 859 men and 887 women developed diabetes
  • Men who downed 14 drinks per week were 43% less likely to develop diabetes than those who drank nothing
  • The diabetes risk to women who consumed nine drinks per week was 58% lower than it was for non-drinkers
  • For both men and women, seven or more glasses of wine per week lowered the risk of diabetes by 25% - 30% compared with having less than one drink of wine
  • One to six beers per week reduced diabetes risk by 21% in men but had no effect on women

The investigation did not distinguish between the two forms of diabetes, Type 1 and the much more common Type 2

The authors, led by Professor Janne Tolstrup from the University of Southern Denmark, wrote in the journal Diabetologia: "Our findings suggest that alcohol drinking frequency is associated with the risk of diabetes and that consumption of alcohol over 3 to 4 weekdays is associated with the lowest risks of diabetes, even after taking average weekly alcohol consumption into account."