February is American Heart Month. In continued recognition of this, Diagnostic Imaging Services shares a blog post by Ng Peng Hock posted to the Heart Disease Prevention blog:

Being responsible for about 88,000 deaths in the United States, excessive alcohol consumption could lead to development of chronic diseases including high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and liver disease. This is what CDC (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has been warning the general public.

A recent study, however, indicated that a glass of red wine at dinner is safe and likely to benefit people with Type-2 diabetes. Researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev-Soroka Medical Center and Nuclear Research Center Negev, Israel found that people who followed a healthy diet and drank a glass of red wine at dinner had better HDL (good cholesterol) and other good health-related factors than people on the same diet who just drank mineral water. Their findings were published online 13 October 2015 in journal ‘Annals of Internal Medicine’.

In the study, 224 adults with Type-2 diabetes, who aged between 40 and 75, were randomly selected to drink 150 milliliters (about 5 ounces) of either mineral water, white wine or red wine with dinner for 2 years. All the participants were not alcohol drinkers previously, and they also followed a Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes plant-based foods, whole grains, legumes and nuts, and healthy fat instead of butter. 87 percent completed the trial, with 80 percent drinking their daily dose of wine.

Two years later, people who drank red wine with dinner had their HDL cholesterol increased, and they also had lower heart disease risk, as indicated by a lower ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol. Compared to those who drank mineral water, people in the red wine group had fewer conditions of metabolic syndrome like a large waistline and high blood pressure, which would raise the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.

The researchers, nevertheless, admitted that that except for a subset of participants whose livers processed alcohol relatively slowly, most people in the study did not have any improvements in their blood sugar levels. They also could not confirm those who drank wine at dinner had fewer heart attack or deaths, comparing to those who drank mineral water.

Risks and benefits of consuming alcohol for people with diabetes are indeed controversial. Though the study did suggest possible benefits of moderate drinking, for people with and without diabetes, it is not sure if doctors should ask their diabetic patients to drink.

While some health experts doubted the benefits to cholesterol, metabolic risk factors and blood sugar control were large enough to make a practical difference, they had no objection about adding a glass of wine with dinner. They, however, warned that wine itself might impact people’s blood sugar.

Drinking alcohol with food is always a better idea than drinking alcohol alone. Patient should check before and after meal sugars to see if alcohol is having any immediate impact on sugar control.