Go drinking, avoid diabetes and support the liquor lobby! :)

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From Reuters we read:

NEW YORK, Jan 06 (Reuters Health) -- Men who are 'moderate' drinkers -- between 5 to 10 drinks per week -- have a lower risk for adult-onset diabetes than either abstainers or heavy drinkers, researchers report.

Well, that wasn't exactly what the scientist said - Reuters turned that around a bit.  The next paragraph tells the story:

  "Men with a high alcohol intake may be able to reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes if they drink less," report Dr. Ming Wei and colleagues at the Cooper Institute in Dallas, Texas. Their findings are published in the January issue of the journal Diabetes Care.

Looking up this study, I found the following abstract:

Alcohol intake and incidence of type 2 diabetes in men.

1. M Wei,
2. L W Gibbons,
3. T L Mitchell,
4. J B Kampert and
5. S N Blair

Cooper Institute, Dallas, Texas 75230, USA.


OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the relation between alcohol intake and incidence of type 2 diabetes. RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS: This prospective study included 8,663 men with fasting plasma glucose measurements from at least two medical examinations. Alcohol intake was classified into five groups: nondrinkers and four quartiles (Qs) of drinkers according to the amount of alcohol intake. Type 2 diabetes was diagnosed by 1997 American Diabetes Association criteria. RESULTS: There were 149 incident cases of type 2 diabetes during 52,588 person-years of follow-up. There was a U-shaped association between alcohol intake and diabetes, with the lowest incidence of diabetes at Q2 (61.9-122.7 g/week). As compared with Q2, men in Q3 and Q4 had a 2.2- (95% CI 1.2-3.9, P = 0.01) and 2.4-fold (1.4-4.4, P<0.01) risk of developing diabetes, while nondrinkers and men in Q1 had 1.8- (1.0-3.3, P<0.05) and 1.4-fold (0.7-2.6, P = 0.34) higher risk of diabetes, respectively. These associations persisted after adjustment for age, fasting plasma glucose, smoking, BMI, blood pressure, serum triglyceride concentration, cardiorespiratory fitness, HDL cholesterol, waist circumference, and parental diabetes. CONCLUSIONS: We observed an elevated risk of developing type 2 diabetes in nondrinkers and men with high alcohol intakes, when compared with men who reported moderate alcohol intake. Men with a high alcohol intake may be able to reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes if they drink less.

Oddly, this seems to be using the same body of data of a 1999 study by the same scientists, which focused on the benefits of cardio vascular fitness. hmmm.

Possible issues with this study.

The study was basically epidemiological which is less than accurate because many factors are not taken into consideration - the word "data dredge" comes to mind.  Also out of over 8600 men, they only observed 149 cases of diabetes so this isn't a whole lot to make a judgment from. The results were confusing showing that men who were very light drinkers had a similar risk to non drinkers in coming down with diabetes but the non drinker risk factor was only 1.8 higher than moderate drinkers (and any risk factor under 2.0 is not significant).

The scientists seem to emphasize that it was the cutting down of heavy drinking that significantly reduced the risk of getting diabetes rather than focusing on the non drinker risk being slightly higher than the drinker's risks.

I don't think you can take this one to the bank, especially as other studies have determined that the risks of drinking which include possible liver damage and damage on the cellular level likely outweigh any benefits and most studies specify the health benefits as derived from drinking wine which has an antioxidant in it and also has a very low alcohol content.

My questions when reporting this study in 2006 were:

  1. Most moderate drinkers I know with the diabetes gene, did, in fact come down with full blown diabetes

  2. Why would alcohol, loaded with sugar, lower the risk of diabetes?

  3. Why would alcohol which damages the liver with every drink, lower the risk of anything?

Actually, the final paragraph of the Reuters article seems to disprove the former claim:

"Based on their findings, the authors estimate that "24% of the incident cases of diabetes in (adult men) might be attributable to high alcohol intake." While they do not recommend that abstainers take up drinking to lower their diabetes risk, they do urge that heavy drinkers cut back in order to lower their disease risk. SOURCE: Diabetes Care 2000;23:18-22."

Hello?  TWENTY FOUR PERCENT of diabetes caused by drinking and yet, Reuters wants us to believe that these doctors say that if you DRINK a moderate amount you won't get diabetes?  What is wrong with this picture?

I know, they hope folks will never get to the final paragraph, right?

The liquor lobby must be working fulltime. Maybe people _are_ drinking less. Can't have a cutdown of booze sales, now can we!