Alcohol is protective against heart disease

Alcohol is good for diabetes.

When you’re a diabetic you’re bombarded with sensationalist headlines, one day it’s good for you, the next day a new headline saying it’s bad for you. It’s confusing as hell, how are you meant to stay ahead and make great choices? Is alcohol good or bad for us?


Maybe you should just relax with a nice glass of pinot noir and let the world go by….


No I mean it – relax with a glass of wine.  Add a little dark chocolate in and you will be improving your health. I bet that’s a headline you could get behind.


I always spend a lot of time researching the science behind what I write. I end up sifting my way through conflicting data and evaluating the study design before I can use any of the data. Honestly this is often the most laborious part of the process.


But not this time, not with alcohol – phew. The case seems to be open and shut (until the next study comes out that is). There are numerous, large peer reviewed and published studies that point clearly to alcohol’s protective benefits for type 2 diabetics.


How does drinking protect you?


Alcohol is a potent source of energy at 7 calories per gram, that’s only a little less than fat. Your body wants to make the most out of any energy that comes it’s way.


Alcohol is starting to be absorbed from the time it touches your lips and takes about 30-60mins to reach peak concentrations in the body.


Now – this is where it gets interesting. The body can’t store the energy, it needs to use it now. So it goes to the front of the queue at the liver. The liver is the factory of our body and metabolises the food that we eat and is a big player in insulin sensitivity and resistance.


While the liver is breaking down the alcohol the other food is put on hold – this means lower blood sugars as the energy from the food will take longer to breakdown to sugar and get into the bloodstream more slowly. This is good news for diabetes.


Alcohol also protects the heart and circulatory system.


Alcohol consumption appears to
  • reduce LDL (bad cholesterol)
  • increase HDL (good cholesterol)
  • reduce inflammation in the body
  • increase sensitivity to insulin
  • thin the blood
  • lower blood pressure
  • may protect from dementia (studies are ongoing, with some conflicting results)


What the scientists say

There is a large number of studies showing the protective effect of moderate consumption of alcohol.

The Meta-Analysis on Effect of alcohol consumption on biological markers associated with risk of coronary heart disease was published in the British Medical Journal in 2011 this was part of their conclusion:
  • Observational studies suggest that moderate alcohol intake is associated with lower risk of various cardiovascular events, particularly coronary heart disease
  • Interventional studies showed that alcohol favourably influences various biomarkers associated with risk of coronary heart disease
  • Moderate alcohol consumption had favourable effects on levels of high density lipoprotein cholesterol, apolipoprotein A1, adiponectin, and fibrinogen
  • These results strengthen the case for a causal link between alcohol intake and reduced risk of coronary heart disease


The Alcohol as a Risk Factor for Type 2 Diabetes study published by the American Diabetes Association showed that moderate alcohol consumption decreased the risk of developing type 2 diabetes:

Our analysis confirms previous research findings that moderate alcohol consumption is protective for type 2 diabetes in men and women.


What does ‘Moderate Consumption’ actually mean?

In the studies people consumed 1 – 2 drinks per day. It is important to know that drinking more than that cancels out the benefits and starts to increase risk of many diseases.


Binge drinking also increases the risks. So saving up your allowance and splurging with high levels over the weekend will not protect you from heart disease or help diabetes.


Not all drinks are created equal when you’re diabetic


Drinking in moderation might be good for your heart, circulation and diabetes. Here’s the catch – make sure your drink doesn’t come with a huge dose of sweetness that will send your sugars sky high.


Dry wines, both red and white are good choices. Sprits are low in sugar too, but watch the mixers that can add a huge amount of sugar to the mix.


Cocktails are usually full of sugar – if you can’t even taste the alcohol then you know there’s loads of juices and syrups hiding in there.


Beers are really high in carbohydrates that your body will breakdown into sugar if you are watching the carbs you are eating make sure you add it to your calculations.


The Downside to Alcohol


Drinking in moderation is the key. Alcohol in excess brings all sorts of problems, including liver damage, strokes and a dramatic increase in the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia.


Alcohol also causes nerve damage, in diabetics that suffer from neuropathy it is not recommended. Alcohol can increase the tingling or burning sensations in hands and feet.

The message is moderation – actually isn’t that the one word we need for a healthy life?


That glass of wine no longer needs to be a guilty pleasure, you’re actually doing your body a favour.



  • Kris Kumar

    Reply Reply July 19, 2016

    Thanks Mary for the helpful advise. I just have to learn the word “moderation”. But with your advise I am getting better. One day if you do come to Australia or NZ, I would like to meet you. You never know. Thanks for your help. Keep up the great work you do.

  • Kris Kumar

    Reply Reply July 19, 2016

    Thanks Mary for the helpful advise. I just have to learn the word “moderation”. But with your advise I am getting better. One day if you do come to Australia or NZ, I would like to meet you. You never know. Thanks for your help. Keep up the great work you do.

  • mike stringman

    Reply Reply December 13, 2016

    very interesting comments on alchohol confirmed what i thought and have something on samelines

  • Vally

    Reply Reply December 13, 2016

    Thank you for the clear succinct advice

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