Researchers used data on 28,704 men and 41,847 women free of diabetes at the start who reported how often they drank and the amounts of alcohol consumed. They followed the group for an average of five years. The observational study is in Diabetologia.
After adjusting for diet, family history of diabetes, high blood pressure, physical activity, smoking and other factors, they found that compared with abstainers, men who drank 14 drinks a week had a 43 percent lower risk of diabetes, and women who drank nine drinks a week a 58 percent lower risk. The mechanism is unknown, and the study could not distinguish between different types of drinks.
Consuming alcohol three to four days a week, compared with only once, was also associated with a lower risk, even after adjusting for the amount of alcohol consumed. The senior author, Janne S. Tolstrup, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Southern Denmark, said that spacing out your drinks over the week may be at least as important as the amount consumed.
“Keep consumption at moderate levels,” she said, “about seven drinks a week for women and 14 for men. Alcohol is associated with many diseases and conditions — at the same level where it may protect against diabetes, the risk of other diseases is increased.
Here’s the Danish study
Alcohol drinking patterns and risk of diabetes: a cohort study of 70,551 men and women from the general Danish population
Alcohol consumption is inversely associated with diabetes, but little is known about the role of drinking patterns. We examined the association between alcohol drinking patterns and diabetes risk in men and women from the general Danish population.
This cohort study was based on data from the Danish Health Examination Survey 2007–2008. Of the 76,484 survey participants, 28,704 men and 41,847 women were eligible for this study. Participants were followed for a median of 4.9 years. Self-reported questionnaires were used to obtain information on alcohol drinking patterns, i.e. frequency of alcohol drinking, frequency of binge drinking, and consumption of wine, beer and spirits, from which we calculated beverage-specific and overall average weekly alcohol intake. Information on incident cases of diabetes was obtained from the Danish National Diabetes Register. Cox proportional hazards model was applied to estimate HRs and 95% CIs.
During follow-up, 859 men and 887 women developed diabetes. The lowest risk of diabetes was observed at 14 drinks/week in men (HR 0.57 [95% CI 0.47, 0.70]) and at 9 drinks/week in women (HR 0.42 [95% CI 0.35, 0.51]), relative to no alcohol intake. Compared with current alcohol consumers consuming <1 day/week, consumption of alcohol on 3–4 days weekly was associated with significantly lower risk for diabetes in men (HR 0.73 [95% CI 0.59, 0.94]) and women (HR 0.68 [95% CI 0.53, 0.88]) after adjusting for confounders and average weekly alcohol amount.
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.