Skip to main content

Should diabetics drink wine?

An epidemic of type 2 diabetes looms over the western world, with some estimates predicting that as many as a third of all Americans will have the condition within a decade or two. Obesity is the culprit, a complicated issue to be sure but the role of wine in the diet of diabetics is even more so. A recent study finding that low-dose supplements of the wine-derived polyphenol resveratrol improve glucose tolerance and other parameters in humans provides some guidance in sorting it all out.


It has long been known that wine drinkers, especially those who consume red wine in moderation with dinner on a daily basis, are less likely to gain weight and hence less prone to type 2 diabetes. There are a number of potential explanations, including the fact that wine drinking is linked to a range of healthy lifestyle factors including diet and exercise, but the science of wine polyphenols – including the antioxidant resveratrol – provides some intriguing evidence of a biochemical mechanism at work. Studies in mice have been very promising but this new randomized prospective double-blind study, on 19 human subjects, documents that it can be useful clinically if the results can be verified. Importantly the study used a low dose of 10 milligrams daily, consistent with what you might get in wine.

The question of whether it would be better to take the supplements and avoid the calories from wine remains a subject of debate. Clearly, wine drinkers do better in terms of developing type 2 diabetes, and resveratrol may have little to do with it. But calories from alcohol are metabolized differently that from carbohydrates and other food components, so that the spike in blood sugar is minimized.

All of this brings us back to the role of wine as a food. In the case of diabetics, it may actually be a functional food, by avoiding the types of calories that make the problem worse while providing natural ingredients that could actually improve the condition on a biomolecular level. In order for it to work, however, it all has to be integrated into a healthy lifestyle.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

How globalization of drinking habits threatens the French paradox

It seems that the more studies we see on the relationship between wine and health, and the larger they are, the more contradictory the results. Headlines summarizing comprehensive international studies declare the French paradox dead, and all alcoholic beverages are equally detrimental. I think there is an overlooked explanation for this: over the past several decades, convergence of drinking patterns around the world has separated wine from its role as a daily part of a meal. Globalization has commoditized our views about drink, toppling it from its role as a culturally specific emblem. Global convergence of drinking There are several recent reports summarizing the trend,[i],[ii],[iii]and it applies for both developed and developing countries. Since the early 1960s, wine’s share of global alcohol consumption has more than halved, declining from 35% to 15%. Beer and spirits have taken up the slack, with beer gaining 42% and spirits adding 43%, both large gains. The bigger story howeve…

Wear red and DRINK red for women’s heart health

This Friday Feb 2nd is the annual “wear red” day in Canada and the U.S. to raise awareness for women’s heart health. Why only a day for the number one threat to women’s health? Women are 5 times more likely to succumb to heart disease than breast cancer, which gets a whole month (October.) Another contradiction is that the advice women hear about prevention of breast cancer is the opposite of what you can do to lower the risk of heart disease: a daily glass of wine. Even one drink a day raises your risk of breast cancer, we are told, ignoring the overriding benefits of wine on heart health. Drink red wine to live longer Here’s why I think women should also “drink red.” For starters, wine helps de-stress and celebrates life. Stress is a factor in heart disease, and if that were the only way wine helped it would be worth considering. But the medical evidence is also strong: a daily glass of red wine helps raise the HDL “good cholesterol” levels, which lowers the risk of cardiovascular p…

Which types of wine are the healthiest?

I am often asked after lecturing on the healthful properties of wine which type is best to drink. Since much of the discussion has to do with the polyphenol antioxidants from the skins and seeds of the grape, red wine is the first criterion since it is fermented with the whole grape rather than the pressed juice. This allows for extraction and concentration of these compounds, familiar ones being resveratrol and tannins. But beyond that, which varietals have the highest concentrations?


According to the Roman philosopher Pliny the Elder, “The best kind of wine is that which is pleasant to him that drinks it” but modern science expects more specifics. (The point of course is that if you have a wine that you enjoy you are more likely to drink regularly and therefore reap the benefits.) But there are several difficulties in singling out certain wines for their healthful properties. Which compounds to measure? Are we talking about heart health or the whole gamut? Is it the varietal of the …