Drink to Your Health: Moderate Alcohol Use May Lower Heart Disease Risk in People With Type 2 Diabetes

The relationship between alcohol consumption and vascular complications and mortality in individuals with type 2 diabetes. By Blomster and colleagues. Diabetes Care 2014;37:1353–1359

What is the problem and what is known about it so far?

People with diabetes are at an increased risk for heart attacks, strokes, and other potentially fatal medical emergencies related to heart disease. In some studies, moderate alcohol consumption has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease in people without diabetes.

Why did the researchers do this particular study?

Researchers wanted to investigate what effect alcohol consumption has on the heart health of people with type 2 diabetes.

Who was studied?

The study included 11,140 patients with type 2 diabetes from 20 countries. Participants were at least 55 years old and had a history of heart disease or at least one risk factor for heart disease.

How was the study done?

At the study's start, participants told the researchers how much, on average, alcohol they consumed during a typical week and what types of alcohol they drank (wine, beer, or spirits).

What did the researchers find?

Compared with people who drank no alcohol, those who consumed a moderate amount (21 or fewer drinks a week for men and 14 or fewer drinks a week for women) were at a lower risk for heart attacks, strokes, and premature death. The benefits were particularly evident in people who primarily drank wine. On the other hand, people who drank more than a moderate amount (heavy drinkers) were at higher risk of heart attacks, strokes, and premature death than abstainers.

What were the limitations of the study?

The study cannot prove that drinking alcohol caused the observed benefits. It's possible that confounding factors clouded the results. For example, health-conscious people, who would likely be healthier in general, may drink more because they've heard that alcohol has health benefits.

What are the implications of the study?

The study suggests that drinking a moderate amount of alcohol is associated with a lower risk of heart disease and premature death.

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