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Diabetes-alcohol link played down by experts

Charity experts have warned that a study that found drinking alcohol decreases the chance of developing diabetes should be taken with a “pinch of salt.”

Dr Emily Burns, who is an acting head of research communications for Diabetes UK, told Eastern Eye on Monday (30) that she does not see these results as a “green light” for going above the UK government guidelines of 14 units a week for men and for women.

“We don’t want people to see these results and think it is a way to help them reduce their risk of type 2 diabetes,” Dr Burns said.

Instead, it is recommended to take part in physical activity and have a healthy, balanced diet to reduce the risks of the disease.

Dr Burns also suggested that those of south Asian descent and over the age of 25 should schedule a check-up for type 2 diabetes with a GP.

Dr Emily Burns

The study, published in Diabetologia, said people who drink three to four times a week are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those that drink. Researchers suggested that wine appears to be beneficial as it plays a role in helping to manage blood sugar.

More than 70,000 people were surveyed on their alcohol intake.

Dr Burns explained that there are a few reasons why the study should be regarded with reservations.

“The study was conducted under five years, which isn’t a very long period of time for a study like this. They also only asked to report how much alcohol [each individual] drank once. Our alcohol intake can change quite a lot over time which would be another limitation of the study,” she said.

In addition, the individual risk of type 2 diabetes is personal, with age, ethnic background and family history all being risk factors.

“We know that people from the South Asian communities are at higher risk so things like diet and exercise are doubly important. It’s very important to watch your weight and to watch what you eat and to try and keep the risk as low as you can,” she said.

Type 2 diabetes is known to be up to six times more common in people of South Asian descent. Although experts aren’t entirely sure why this is, it is thought to be made up of several factors. Dr Burns said some of these include genetics, dietary and cultural factors and the additional possibility that there could be physiological differences between ethnicities in which fats are stored in different ways within the body.

Dr Burns added that “we can understand the interest [in the research] but if you are really concerned about your risk, the answer will be through diet and exercise rather than how much alcohol you drink.”

Those who are interested to see if they have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes can take an online test to calculate the chances of development and recommendations on how to stay healthy.

Go to for more information.