People who drink wine with their meals may be at lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, a new study suggests.
Researchers analysed data from 312,400 patients on the UK biobank database and found that drinking alcohol with meals was associated with a 14% lower risk of the condition compared to consuming alcohol without eating food.
The potential benefit of moderate drinking was seen only among people who drank alcohol during meals, although the specific time of meals was not collected in this study.
Researchers found the associated benefit between drinking with meals and type 2 diabetes was most common in those who consumed wine rather than other types of alcohol.
Drinking wine, beer and spirits with meals had different associations with type 2 diabetes risk.
According to the researchers, while drinking more wine was linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, a higher amount of beer or spirit was associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes.
Study author Hao Ma, a biostatistical analyst at the Tulane University Obesity Research Centre in New Orleans, USA, said: “The effects of alcohol consumption on health have been described as a double-edged sword because of its apparent abilities to cut deeply in either direction – harmful or helpful, depending on how it is consumed.
“Previous studies have focused on how much people drink and have had mixed results.
“Very few studies have focused on other drinking details, such as the timing of alcohol intake.”
He added: “The message from this study is that drinking moderate amounts of wine with meals may prevent type 2 diabetes if you do not have another health condition that may be negatively affected by moderate alcohol consumption and in consultation with your doctor.”
During an average of nearly 11 years of follow-up, around 8,600 of the adults in the study developed type 2 diabetes.
They did not have diabetes, cardiovascular diseases or cancer when they joined the study.
People who reduced their alcohol consumption due to illness, doctor’s advice or pregnancy were excluded from the study.
The average age of participants was 56 years old, slightly more than half of the adults were women and 95% were white.
Experts suggest that people who do not drink alcohol should not start, and those who drink alcohol regularly should talk with their doctors about the benefits and risks of consuming alcohol in moderation.
They highlight that those who already consume alcohol should drink in moderation.
Moderate drinking is defined as one glass of wine or other alcoholic beverage daily for women and up to two glasses daily for men.
Despite the findings, the relationship between alcohol consumption and new-onset type 2 diabetes remains controversial, according to Robert Eckel a past president (2005-2006) of the American Heart Association, who was not involved in the study.
He said: “This data suggest that it’s not the alcohol with meals but other ingredients in wine, perhaps antioxidants, that may be the factor in potentially reducing new-onset type 2 diabetes.
“While the type of wine, red versus white, needs to be defined, and validation of these findings and mechanisms of benefit are needed, the results suggest that if you are consuming alcohol with meals, wine may be a better choice.”
The authors note a number of limitations to their study, including that most of those participating were white adults of European descent who reported their own alcohol intake.
It is therefore unknown whether the findings can be generalized to other populations.
The preliminary research was presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology, Prevention, Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Conference 2022, and has not been peer-reviewed.