Red wine improves cardiovascular health of diabetics, researchers reveal

By @iamkarlatecson on
Red wine
A waiter serves a glass of red wine from Spain during a tasting session at Vinexpo Asia-Pacific, the International Wine and Spirits Exhibition for the Asia-Pacific region, in Hong Kong May 28, 2008. Reuters/Victor Fraile

A new study suggests that drinking a glass of red wine every night may help people with type 2 diabetes manage their cholesterol and cardiac health. Researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel sought to evaluate the effects of moderate alcohol consumption in diabetics and determine whether the type of wine is a factor in yielding health benefits.

Individuals with diabetes are considered to be more likely to develop cardiovascular diseases than the general population and are found to have lower levels of good cholesterol. While there is a growing number of evidence showing the benefits of moderate alcohol consumption to people with diabetes, there is a lack of long-term and randomised controlled trials, which are necessary for evidence-based medicine.

In the new study, detailed in Annals of Internal Medicine, the team conducted a two-year randomised controlled trial to determine the benefits of wine intake. They performed the trial on 224 controlled diabetes patients aged between 45 and 75 years old who generally abstained from alcohol. The team gradually initiated moderate wine consumption among the participants as part of a healthy diet platform.

After the experiment, the researchers found that red wine is superior in improving overall metabolic profiles, since it modestly improved the lipid profile as well as increased good cholesterol and apolipoprotein A1. 

“Initiating 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. The differential genetic effects that were found may assist in identifying diabetic patients in whom moderate wine consumption may induce greater clinical benefit,” the researchers explained.

Both red and white wine also improved sugar control, but the team said it only works for those with genes that metabolise alcohol slowly. The researchers said only the slow alcohol-metabolisers who drank wine achieved improvement in blood sugar control, while fast alcohol-metabolisers did not benefit from the ethanol’s glucose control effect. 

As an additional benefit, the team notes that sleep quality was significantly improved among participants who drank red and white wine. However, they did not determine any effect of wine in blood pressure, liver function tests, adiposity or adverse symptoms. 

The differences found between red and white wine debunked the team’s original hypothesis that the beneficial effects of wine are predominantly because of its alcohol content, said Professor Iris Shai, principal investigator of the trial and a member of the Department of Public Health in the Faculty of Health Sciences. Their findings suggest that ethanol plays an important role in glucose metabolism, while red wine’s effects additionally involve non-alcoholic constituents. 

However, Shai warned that any clinical implication of their study should be taken with careful medical follow-up. 

According to Australian nutrition professionals, drinking low to moderate quantities of red wine helps protect against heart disease. However, they also noted that excess alcohol consumption, greater than about two standard drinks per day, leads to increased risk of disease, injury and death.

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