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Light drinking has immediate effects on diabetes, cardiovascular risk factors
  By Will Boggs, MD
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Consumption of small amounts of alcohol improves several measures of diabetes and cardiovascular risk factors in the few hours after eating a meal, according to a report in the February issue of The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.
"Our current study extends the findings of our previous work, which demonstrates that people who drink small amounts of alcohol on a regular basis have better blood fat levels, better insulin sensitivity and lower amounts of abdominal or central fat than people who don't drink at all or those who drink heavily," Dr. Lesley V. Campbell from Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Sydney, Australia told Reuters Health.
Dr. Campbell and colleagues examined the effect of 15 grams of alcohol - the amount in 1 to 1 1/2 drinks - on postprandial metabolic factors in 20 postmenopausal women during the 6 hours after eating.
Alcohol consumption was associated with lower glucose and insulin levels after a low-carbohydrate meal, but only in insulin-sensitive subjects, the authors report, whereas alcohol consumption did not affect these variables after a high-carbohydrate meal or in insulin-resistant subjects.
Alcohol consumption did not influence the postprandial levels of total or HDL cholesterol after either type of meal, the report indicates, though alcohol augmented the postprandial increment in triglyceride levels after both meals.
Alcohol enhanced the reduction in arterial stiffness after the low-carbohydrate meal and increased the postprandial increment in energy expenditure 30 to 60 minutes after both the low- and high-carbohydrate meals, the researchers note.
"The beneficial effects of adding a small amount of alcohol to a meal that we demonstrated add weight to, and indeed may explain the observation, that moderate alcohol consumers have lower risks of heart disease and diabetes," Dr. Campbell said. "Our findings could possibly be used to convince heavy alcohol consumers to reduce their intake to a level associated with documented beneficial effects."
"The use of alcohol per se in our study, rather than a particular type of alcoholic drink, means that we can confidently attribute the benefits that we demonstrated to alcohol itself, rather than to a specific component of a particular alcoholic drink," Dr. Campbell added.
"As we only studied postmenopausal women in this trial, future studies will need to examine similar research questions in men," Dr. Campbell said.
J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2005;90:661-672.

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