Information and advice about alcohol consumption and its effects can be confusing; whilst some studies say that drinking one glass of wine a day can be beneficial, many more say that alcohol has no benefits whatsoever and can, in fact, cause considerable damage. This Alcohol Awareness Month we take a look at the link between alcohol consumption and diabetes.

One of the most significant dangers of drinking alcohol is the link between alcohol consumption and type 2 diabetes. With 25.8 million Americans suffering from diabetes, and nearly 2 million adults being diagnosed with the condition every year in the States, type 2 diabetes is reaching epidemic proportions. Whilst obesity is singled out as one of the major causes of diabetes, many believe that type 2 diabetes is not caused by what you eat, but rather what (and how much) you drink.

Alcohol and Prediabetes

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 79 million Americans have prediabetes. Prediabetes is a condition where a person’s blood sugar levels are higher than they should be, but not high enough on be classified as diabetes. However, if a person has prediabetes, it is likely that their insulin production will continue to decrease, and consequently blood sugar levels will continue to rise until they become diabetic.

Regular heavy alcohol consumption can damage the pancreas, the organ that is responsible for producing insulin to regulate blood sugar. Drinking excessively on a regular basis causes increased damage to the pancreas, which increases the risk of developing prediabetes. Often, prediabetes leads to type 2 diabetes.

One study showed that those who drink very heavily, (more than ten drinks a day) are six times more likely to develop prediabetes.

Alcohol and Diabetes

Whilst moderate alcohol consumption (around one drink a day on average) is not thought to be harmful, heavy drinking is thought to lead to diabetes in one of three ways:

Chronic pancreatitis is caused by heavy drinking, particularly in men. Diabetes is a common side effect of this condition.
According to the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism, heavy drinking can reduce the body’s sensitivity to insulin, which can cause increased blood sugar and put pressure on the pancreas.
Alcohol is high in calories; excessive alcohol intake can lead to obesity which, in turn, can lead to diabetes.
Cut Back on Alcohol

If you average more than one drink a day; one small (175ml) glass of wine if you are a woman, or a larger (250ml) glass if you are male, you could be at risk of developing prediabetes as a result of your alcohol intake. By cutting back by just one drink every time you drink, you could dramatically reduce your alcohol intake, your diabetes risks and the other health risks associated with alcohol.

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