Having a drink or two a day may lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by as much as 30 percent, according to a new review of research on the subject.

Researchers tallied data from 15 studies that included information on alcohol use and diabetes risk in nearly 370,000 people who were followed for 12 years.

The results showed that people who drank up to 48 grams of alcohol or up to four standard drinks per day were about 30 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes as nondrinkers. No differences in risk reduction were found between people who had low or high BMIs. In other words those benefits were seen regardless of whether a person was overweight or not.

But drinking more than four drinks a day was associated with a slightly higher risk of type 2 diabetes, which was equivalent to the increased risk faced by nondrinkers.

A standard drink, such as a 12-ounce bottle of beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine, or 1.5-ounce shot of 80-proof distilled spirits, has between 11 and 14 grams of alcohol.

The study showed about the same reduction in type 2 diabetes risk was associated with drinking one to four alcoholic drinks per day. However, several major health groups, including the American Heart Association, recommend drinking no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men due to a potential increase in the risk of other diseases.

Alcohol for Diabetes Prevention?

Researchers say it’s the first analysis to directly study the relationship between alcohol consumption and development of type 2 diabetes. The lower risk of diabetes among moderate drinkers was consistent over most of the included studies. The results appear in the March issue of Diabetes Care.

Health officials expect about a 40 percent increase in the rate of new cases of type 2 diabetes worldwide during the next two decades.

Along with the aging population, researchers attribute much of the dramatic increase in type 2 diabetes to lifestyle factors such as physical inactivity and obesity.

They say the results of this study show that moderate alcohol use may be one lifestyle factor that may aid in the prevention of type 2 diabetes in the future.

By Jennifer Warner, reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD

SOURCE: Koppes, L. Diabetes Care, March 2005; vol 28: pp: 719-725.