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Drinking alcohol regularly reduces diabetes risk

Scientists say men and women who drink alcohol three to four times a week are less likely to develop diabetes compared to those who never drink – but not when it comes to spirits.

Women who drink more than seven spirit-based drinks a week increase their risk of diabetes, research suggests

Danish experts surveyed 76,484 people – 28,704 men and 41,847 women – as part of the Danish Health Examination Survey 2007-2008, which collected data about consumers’ alcohol intake, including the quantity and frequency of their drinking. The findings were published in Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes.

During the follow up, 859 men and 887 were found to have developed diabetes. The lowest risk of diabetes was found to be at 14 drinks per week for men, and nine drinks a week for women, compared to no alcohol intake.

A moderate consumption of wine proved particularly beneficial in reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes by 25-30% in men and women, thought to be due to the polyphenols – particularly in red wine – which play a role in helping to manage blood sugar, according to researchers.

They also found that men who consumed one to six beers a week cut their risk of diabetes by 21%, compared to men who drank less than one beer a week. However, there was no effect on women’s risk.

But when it comes to spirits, the study showed women who drank seven or more drinks of spirits per week increased their risk of diabetes by 83%, compared to women who consumed less than one spirits-based drink each week. The results showed spirits had no effect on men.

The authors of the study concluded: “Our findings suggest that alcohol drinking frequency is associated with risk of diabetes and that consumption of alcohol over 3-4 days per week is associated with the lowest risk of diabetes, even after taking average weekly alcohol consumption into account.”

However, Public Health England advised consumers to be aware of the additional risks of consuming alcohol, not just diabetes.

Rosanna O’Connor, director of drugs, alcohol and tobacco, Public Health England, said: “It is not helpful to talk about the effect of alcohol consumption on diabetes alone.

“Consuming alcohol contributes to a vast number of other serious diseases, including some cancers, heart disease and liver disease, so people should keep this in mind when thinking about how much they drink.”

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