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Diary of a diabetic - should I start drinking again to beat the disease?

Tom Winnifrith
Saturday 29 July 2017

I now drink almost no alcohol as I battle to keep type 2 diabetes in check by keeping my blood sugars down. But apparently I may have got it all wrong. Or maybe not.

Research by Professor Janne Tolstrup from the University of Southern Denmark published this week concluded: “Our findings suggest that alcohol drinking frequency is associated with the risk of diabetes and that consumption of alcohol over three to four weekdays is associated with the lowest risks of diabetes, even after taking average weekly alcohol consumption into account.”

Scientists studied data on 70,551 men and women who took part in a Danish survey. Respondents were quizzed about their drinking habits and monitored for five years. Afterwards, participants were followed up and 859 men and 887 women had developed diabetes. The investigation did not distinguish between the two forms of diabetes, type 1 and the much more common type 2. For both genders, seven glasses of wine a week lowered the risk of diabetes by 25% to 30% compared with having less than one glass.

I make a few observations. The study does not address how those of us who already have diabetes should proceed. I just cannot see how shipping in high sugar liquids is going to help me and the study does not address how for those who have type 2 diabetes drinking affects its control.

Secondly those who are non-drinkers always seem to do really badly in all health studies be it diabetes or cancer or heart conditions. I'd like to think that this was God punishing them for being such boring puritanical bastards but I suspect that there is another reason. A good percentage of those who drink nothing used to be heavy drinkers or alcoholics. Very few alcoholics become 3-4 glasses a week folk. So what we do not know is how much damage the teetotallers who used to cane it every day had already done by the time they went on the wagon and before this study started.

There are also cultural factors at play. Muslims drink nothing but for dietary reasons, diabetes is rife in many parts of the Muslim world. Denmark has a material muslim population. How did this skew the survey? When the field size is just 1750 folks developing diabetes it would not need to be many to make an impact.

It makes a great headline. I am with my father who may have many ailments but has no issue with his blood sugars and so enjoyed two large glasses of wine with his lunch. I could have had one too, for purely medicinal purposes you understand. I resisted. The survey makes for great headlines but there needs to be a stack more data offered before I believe a word of it.

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About Tom Winnifrith
Tom Winnifrith is the editor of When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
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