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Diabetes UK responds to new alcohol and Type 2 diabetes study

Friday 28 July 2017

Today a new study published by Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes, has outlined that people who drink three to four times per week are less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes, than those who never drink. 

In response to this new study, Dr Emily Burns, Head of Research Communications at Diabetes UK, said: 

“Type 2 diabetes risk is complex. Several factors contribute to it, including family history, ethnic background, age and being overweight. While these findings are interesting, we wouldn’t recommend people see them as a green light to drink in excess of the existing NHS guidelines. Especially as the impact of regular alcohol consumption on the risk of Type 2 will be different from one person to the next.

“Type 2 diabetes is a serious condition, and around three in five cases can be prevented or delayed by eating healthily, moving more and losing weight if you’re overweight. If you’re worried about your risk of developing the condition, we’d advise you to speak to a healthcare professional.”

More about the study

Researchers from Denmark suggest that drinking moderately three or four times a week may reduce your risk of Type 2 diabetes.

They surveyed over 70,000 people in Denmark on their drinking habits and followed how many of them went on to develop Type 2 diabetes over the course of five years. They found that moderate drinking across the week was associated with a lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

Would it affect your risk?

While this study looked at the risk of Type 2 diabetes across a population, everyone’s individual risk of Type 2 diabetes is different. Factors like age, ethnicity and family history all play a role. While we don’t yet fully understand the relationship between alcohol and Type 2 diabetes, eating a healthy diet and being physically active can reduce your risk of developing the condition.

Further research is needed

We also need to take into account that people may change their drinking habits over time; the researchers in this study surveyed participants’ alcohol intake only once.

To better understand how alcohol might affect the risk of Type 2 diabetes, future research would need to follow people for a longer period of time and record any changes in their alcohol intake.

What do the NHS guidelines say?

While this is a very interesting finding, we don’t recommend that people see this as a green light to drink in excess of the existing NHS guidelines.

To keep health risks from drinking alcohol at a low level, you’re safest drinking no more than 14 units per week. Fourteen units is equivalent to a bottle and a half of wine or five pints of export-type lager (5 percent abv) over the course of a week. This advice applies to both men and women.