Drinking and Diabetes

Light to moderate drinkers of alcoholic beverages have lower diabetic risk than do abstainers (teetotalers). Large-scale research consistently finds a 30% to 40% lower risk of diabetes associated with moderate drinking. However, exactly how alcohol reduces the risk of diabetes has not yet been clearly established.

New research has now demonstrated that alcohol improves the body’s resistance to insulin, a problem of type 2 or adult onset diabetes. People with type 2 diabetes can’t use glucose effectively because of their resistance to insulin. That’s the hormone that permits glucose to be used by the body’s cells.

The research, conducted at the University of Padova Medical School in Italy, tested insulin sensitivity by measuring tolerance to glucose while people drank the equivalent of about three drinks of beverage alcohol.

Consuming alcohol directly improved the action of insulin in both healthy and diabetic study participants. However, the effect was much greater among the diabetics. Alcohol also improved fatty acid levels.

Alcohol normalized insulin activity among the diabetics, but the effect was not caused by an increase in insulin production but by an improvement in insulin resistance.

The researchers conclude that light or moderate consumption of alcohol improves insulin sensitivity and may reduce potential cardiac complications of diabetes.


  • Avogaro, A., et al. Acute alcohol consumption improves insulin action without affecting insulin secretion in type 2 diabetic subjects. Diabetes Care, 2004 (June 6), 27(6), 1369-1374.

Filed Under: Diabetes