Alcohol & Prediabetes

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A glass of red wine in front of a woman sitting on a sofa.
A glass of red wine in front of a woman sitting on a sofa. (Image: Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)

When your blood sugar is higher than normal, but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes, it's called prediabetes. This is because without intervention it can progress to diabetes. An estimated 37 percent of adults aged 20 or older have prediabetes, according to the 2009 to 2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Being overweight, not getting enough exercise, smoking and even alcohol consumption influence the risk of prediabetes, according to the American Heart Association.

Understanding Prediabetes

While glucose is vital to your health, it damages your body when too much of it remains in the blood. That's why your pancreas releases a hormone called insulin, which allows glucose to get into your cells and out of your bloodstream. When your body fails to respond properly to insulin, glucose levels rise. A normal fasting glucose level is less 100 milligrams per deciliter. Prediabetes is when your glucose is between 100 and 125 milligrams per deciliter, and diabetes occurs when your fasting glucose is 126 milligrams per deciliter or higher.

Alcohol Prediabetes Risk and Progression

Researchers in Sweden investigated the influence of different types of alcohol on the risk of prediabetes and the progression to Type 2 diabetes. The study involved 2,140 men and 3,099 women between the ages of 35 and 56 who had normal glucose or prediabetes. In men, a high total alcohol consumption and binge drinking raised the risk of both prediabetes and the progression to Type 2 diabetes. In addition, men who reported a high consumption of beer saw an increased risk of prediabetes, and men who drank a high amount of spirits had an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes. For women, high intakes of hard liquor increased the risk of prediabetes. The study results were published in the April 2012 issue of the journal Diabetes Medicine.

Alcohol and Decreased Risk

Interestingly, in women, high intakes of wine reduced the risk for prediabetes, and medium intakes of wine and spirits decreased the risk for Type 2 diabetes, according to the Diabetes Medicine study. A separate study found that moderate alcohol consumption, whether was wine, beer or hard liquor, lowered the risk of Type 2 diabetes in men and women with prediabetes who were either on a blood-sugar lowering drug or modified their lifestyle. The study was published in the September 2009 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Things to Consider

Women with and without diabetes should have no more than one drink per day, and men should have no more than two, according to the American Diabetes Association. If you have prediabetes and are on a lifestyle modification program to lose weight, drinking alcohol may impede your goals by providing extra calories with no nutrients.

Currently there is no research on the impact of drinking sugary alcoholic beverages and the risk of prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes. However, The ADA says drinking nonalcoholic sugary beverages is linked to Type 2 diabetes. This suggests drinking too many sugary alcoholic beverages may be a double whammy.

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