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Diet therapy

Alcohol and type 2 diabetes

The protective role of alcohol in protecting against heart disease has been reported throughout various media sources in previous years, however only recently has it also been shown in people with Type 2 Diabetes.

Epidemiological evidence suggests that a light to moderate alcohol intake may have a protective role against the development of Diabetes in both genders, however appropriate consideration must be given to the level and effect of alcohol consumption on other health complications e.g. neuropathy, retinopathy. It is thought that high alcohol intakes may result in increased risks.

More recent evidence suggests that alcohol may improve insulin sensitivity (a critical indicator to development of type 2 diabetes); whilst studies investigating acute effects have indicated alcohol promotes insulin resistance. More research regarding this area and quantity of alcohol consumed is required.

Current recommendations in light of this research:

  • Non drinkers should continue to abstain from drinking alcohol.
  • Light to moderate consumption can be maintained if no other health related contraindications. NB Light to moderate drinking is classified as 1-2 standard drinks per day for women and 2-3 standard drinks per day for men.
  • If consuming >2 standard drinks per day in women and >4 standard drinks in men it is likely that any benefits would be outweighed through worsening diabetic control and associated complications. It would be sensible to reduce alcohol consumption at this level.

Additional alcohol facts to consider

  • Alcohol can metabolise to produce 7 kilocalories/ml of food energy.
  • The liver converts some alcohol into a form for the body to use or store as fat.
  • Alcohol promotes the uptake of blood glucose into liver glycogen causing a drop in blood glucose.
  • As many alcoholic drinks contain sugar, care should be taken when consuming mixed drinks.
  • An excess of alcohol can cause an increase in serum triglycerides increasing cholesterol levels.
  • Diabetics should take care to remain sober enough to monitor themselves sufficiently e.g. to perform injections according to schedule etc.

About the author View all

Lea Stening

Lea is one of New Zealand’s leading paediatric dietitians and also specialises in Sports Nutrition. She has specialised in Paediatric Nutrition for 31 years and in 1985 was the first paediatric dietitian to enter private practice in New Zealand. Lea helps families through her private consultations, public lectures, newspaper and magazine articles as well as television and radio interviews. Read more »

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