Light or Moderate Alcohol Use Does Not Guard Against Diabetes, Obesity

People who have just one or two drinks per day are not protected against endocrine conditions such as obesity and type 2 diabetes, according to a new study published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Alcohol consumption is a significant public health concern because it is related to many medical conditions such as diabetes, obesity, liver conditions, and heart disease. While it is widely accepted that excessive alcohol consumption causes a wide range of health issues, whether modest alcohol consumption has beneficial health effects remains controversial.

“Some research has indicated that moderate drinkers may be less likely to develop obesity or diabetes compared to non-drinkers and heavy drinkers. However, our study shows that even light-to-moderate alcohol consumption (no more than one standard drink per day) does not protect against obesity and type 2 diabetes in the general population,” says Tianyuan Lu, PhD, from McGill University in Québec, Canada. “We confirmed that heavy drinking could lead to increased measures of obesity (body mass index, waist-to-hip ratio, fat mass, etc.) as well as increased risk of type 2 diabetes.”

“We hope our research helps people understand the risks associated with drinking alcohol and that it informs future public health guidelines and recommendations related to alcohol use,

Tianyuan Lu, PhD, McGill University, Québec, Canada

The researchers assessed self-reported alcohol intake data from 408,540 participants in the U.K. Biobank and found people who had more than 14 drinks per week had higher fat mass and a higher risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes.

These associations were stronger in women than in men. No data supported the association between moderate drinking and improved health outcomes in people drinking less than or equal to seven alcoholic beverages per week.

“We hope our research helps people understand the risks associated with drinking alcohol and that it informs future public health guidelines and recommendations related to alcohol use,” Lu says. “We want our work to encourage the general population to choose alternative healthier behaviors over drinking.”

The other authors of this study are Tomoko Nakanishi and Satoshi Yoshiji of the Jewish General Hospital and McGill University in Québec, Canada, Kyoto University in Kyoto, Japan, and the Japan Society for Promotion of Science in Japan; Guillaume Butler-Laporte and Celia Greenwood of the Jewish General Hospital and McGill University; and J. Brent Richards of the Jewish General Hospital, Prime Sciences Inc. in Québec, Canada, McGill University, and King’s College London in London, U.K.

The study received funding from the Fonds de Recherche du Québec – Santé, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, McGill University, the Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research, the Fondation de l’Hôpital Général Juif, the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, Génome Québec, the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health, the Public Health Agency of Canada, Cancer Research UK, and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science.

The manuscript, “Dose-dependent Association of Alcohol Consumption with Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes: Mendelian Randomization Analyses,” was published online, ahead of print.

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