It is true that a study from Israel published in October (2015) found that drinking a glass of wine daily is beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes. The researchers reported that both triglycerides and fasting plasma glucose levels decreased significantly in patients who drank wine. The study team tested the effects of red and white wine against mineral water in 224 patients ages 45 to 75 with well-controlled type 2 diabetes. None of the patients drank alcohol before joining the study, and all of them were on a Mediterranean diet with no limitations on caloric intake.
The study participants continued drinking five ounces of red or white wine or the mineral water with dinner for two years. At that point, the researchers found that, compared with patients who drank the water or white wine, the ones who drank red wine saw an approximately 10 percent increase in their HDL (“good”) cholesterol. The ratio of total cholesterol to HDL also decreased significantly in the red wine drinkers. Neither of these beneficial changes occurred in those who drank white wine.
The patients whose blood sugar improved the most were those who metabolized wine slowly, something that is genetically determined.
The researchers wrote that they observed no adverse health effects of drinking wine and that those who did so tended to sleep better.
The wine and mineral water were provided free of charge to the participants, but they were required to return their empty wine bottles to get new supplies. Adherence to the amounts of wine specified was validated with several assessment tools.
In a press release that accompanied publication of the study, the researchers noted that “clinical recommendations for moderate alcohol consumption remain controversial, particularly for people with diabetes, due to lack of long-term, randomized controlled trials, which are the ‘holy grail’ of evidence-based medicine.”
However, they concluded “moderate wine intake, especially red wine, among well-controlled diabetics, as part of a healthy diet, is apparently safe, and modestly decreases cardio-metabolic risk.” Lead investigator Iris Shai was quoted in The New York Times as advising type 2 diabetes patients who are tempted to add red wine to a healthy diet as a result of her study’s findings, to do it “carefully, with specific follow-up with your practitioner.”
Andrew Weil, M.D.
Iris Shai et al, “Effects of Initiating Moderate Alcohol Intake on Cardiometabolic Risk in Adults With Type 2 Diabetes: A 2-Year Randomized, Controlled Trial.” Annals of Internal Medicine, October 13, 2015, doi:10.7326/M14-1650