14 November is World Diabetes Day. Moderate beer consumption may decrease the risk of getting type-2 diabetes. For people who already have diabetes it may have a protective effect on the risk of complications.
Eyes on diabetes
More than 190 million adults worldwide do not know they have type-1 or type-2 diabetes. This is half of all cases of diabetes around the world. Untreated diabetes can silently damage the body for years and lead to complications such as cardiovascular disease and kidney failure. By maintaining normal blood glucose levels, blood pressure and cholesterol levels these complications can be prevented or delayed. Therefore, the International Diabetes Federation chose ‘Eyes on diabetes’ as the theme of this year’s World Diabetes Day. The focus lies on better and more screening for diagnosis and prevention of complications of diabetes.1
Lower risk of getting type-2 diabetes
Next to other healthy lifestyle factors, moderate beer and alcohol consumption in moderation (up to 24 grams of alcohol per day) may decrease the relative risk of getting type-2 diabetes with, on average, 30% compared to abstainers. This is a J-shaped curve. Abstainers and heavy alcohol consumers appear to be at higher risk of getting type-2 diabetes than moderate drinkers.2
Protection against complications
People who have type-1 or type-2 diabetes can also benefit from moderate alcohol consumption. Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the most common complication of type-2 diabetes. Consumption of 18 grams of alcohol per day may decrease the relative risk of CHD with 40% and decrease the risk of dying because of it by 66%.3 CHD is a macrovascular disease (affects large blood vessels). Alcohol may also influence microvascular diseases (affects small blood vessels), such as neuropathy (damage to the eyes) and nephropathy (damage to the kidneys). An alcohol intake of 30 – 70 grams per week may reduce the relative risk of these complications with 40%.4
Alcohol and hypos
When you drink alcohol, the liver prioritizes eliminating alcohol and cannot release glucose from the liver to the blood when needed. This might cause hypoglycaemia. Because of this it may be very confusing to people with diabetes whether they can safely drink alcoholic beverages or not. A recently published meta-analysis5 shows that on the short-term (defined as 2 – 24 hours) or medium-term (4 – 104 days) there is no difference in blood glucose levels after drinking a moderate amount of alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages, with or without a meal, in people with type-2 diabetes. Whether the same applies to people with type-1 diabetes has yet to be determined. More research is needed.
More information on the effects of moderate beer consumption and diabetes can be found here or have a look at our infographic:
1. Eyes on diabetes Campaign Toolkit 2016. International Diabetes Federation.
2. Koppes LLJ, Dekker JM, Hendriks HF et al. (2005). Moderate Alcohol Consumption Lowers the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Care, 28(3): 719 – 725.
3. Koppes LLJ, Dekker JM, Hendriks HF et al. (2006). Meta-analysis of the relationship between alcohol consumption and coronary heart disease and mortality in type 2 diabetic patients. Diabetologica, 49(4): 648 – 652.
4. Beulens JW, Kruidhof JS, Grobbee DE et al. (2008). Alcohol consumption and risk of microvascular complications in type 1 diabetes patients: the EURODIAB Prospective Complications Study. Diabetologica, 51(9): 1631 – 1638.
5. Hirst J.A. et al. (2016). Short- and medium-term effects of light to moderate alcohol intake on glycaemic control in diabetes mellitus: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized trials. Diabet. Med. Article in press.