A little drink may help some diabetics' hearts
Read what doctors have to say about diabetes or ask your own questions.
July 20, 1999
Web posted at: 4:42 p.m. EDT (2042 GMT)
From Medical Correspondent Holly Firfer
(CNN) -- New research shows diabetics might want to raise their glass to lower their risk of a heart attack.
Drinking light to moderate amounts of alcohol is associated with a reduced risk of death due to heart disease for persons with older-onset diabetes, according to an article in the July 21 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
"We found that when people reported having drank alcohol as little as less than one glass per week or one drink of alcohol a week or even a little more, there was a strong reduction in the amount of coronary heart disease death," said Dr. Ronald Klein with University of Wisconsin Medical School.
The study looked at more than 900 people with Type 2 diabetes, or diabetes diagnosed after age 30, and found that they might benefit from light to moderate amounts of alcohol.
Doctors have not been able to pinpoint exactly how alcohol protects the heart but suggest it might raise HDL, or "good" cholesterol, levels in the blood. Researchers also said alcohol might help inhibit blood clots that can lead to a heart attack.
Because heart disease is the No. 1 killer of diabetics, doctors hope to make a dent in the 40 percent death rate.
Doctors are cautioning diabetics not to greet the study as a green light to start drinking.
"The message is not to start drinking alcohol if you have been healthy without it," said Dr. Christopher Saudek, vice president of the American Diabetes Association. "The message is, 'If you want to have some alcohol in your diet, then that's acceptable.'"
It has long been thought that diabetics should stay away from alcohol because it can affect blood sugar, the very thing diabetics must work to control.
Now doctors in the study say Type 2 diabetics may be able to tolerate small amounts of alcohol. But Saudek says that's not true of all diabetics.
"You have to be more careful about Type 1 diabetes, because they all take insulin, and the blood sugars tend to dance up and down," Saudek said. "They tend to have to be careful about exactly what they eat and exactly how much insulin they take."
Critics of the study say diabetics face other potential health hazards from alcohol like hypoglycemia, stroke and liver disease. And they worry about those with a history of alcoholism or other compounding factors.
American Diabetes Association
The Journal of the American Medical Association
The University of Wisconsi-Madison
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