Many people like to unwind at the end of the day with a little wine. We’re not talking about going crazy and downing a bottle–just a single glass for enjoyment most nights. But you may feel this is not an option if you’ve been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes due to the effect of alcohol on blood sugar levels. Well, think again. New research “suggests” that you may be in the clear to have some wine with dinner; in fact, it may even be beneficial for controlling the condition.
The study, which took place at Ben Gurion University in Beer Sheva, Israel, found that moderate daily consumption of wine “may” help control blood sugar levels in individuals with type 2 diabetes.[fn] Gepner, Yftach; 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. 20 October 2015. Accessed 18 October 2015. http://annals.org/article.aspx?articleID=2456121 [/fn] The subjects were 224 adults who had been diagnosed with this condition. They were placed on a strict Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes fruits and vegetables, fish, and olive oil, and tracked for two years.
While all of the participants followed the same menu of foods closely, the scientists divided them into random groups to compare the effects of different beverages. One group was charged with having a single glass of red wine each day, a second group was told to have a single glass of white wine each day, and the third group was instructed to drink mineral water instead.
The volunteers all underwent physical examinations throughout the trial period, and the results were interesting. Both the red and white wine drinkers had improvements in their blood sugar levels compared to those who were consuming only mineral water. The red wine drinkers also reaped an extra benefit for their cardiovascular health thanks to a boost to their “good” HDL cholesterol levels. This is in line with other studies that have shown red wine promotes heart health.
But before you get carried away, it should be noted that the determination that wine consumption is “advantageous” for type 2 diabetics may be on somewhat shaky ground. First of all, the size of the subject pool was very small, and therefore the findings lack weight for the public at large. In addition, even within the confines of the study, the results show that there was a wide range of outcomes to the participants’ improvements in blood sugar levels based on how quickly they metabolized their alcohol. Only those participants who metabolized alcohol slowly reaped a significant benefit.
Plus, there are a few potentially major problems with drinking wine every day that might negate any short-term benefits you receive in regard to diabetes. A 2008 study at Kingston University in London, United Kingdom found that many wines contain heavy metals up to 200 times the amount considered safe.[fn] Naughton, Declan P. and Petroczi, Andrea. “Heavy metal ions in wines: meta-analysis of target hazard quotients reveal health risks.” Chemistry Central Journal. 30 October 2008. Accessed 19 October 2015. http://journal.chemistrycentral.com/content/2/1/22 [/fn] This included a number of metals known to be dangerous at toxic levels including lead and manganese, which has been linked with Parkinson’s disease. Heavy metals have also been shown in a 2009 study at China Medical University in Taichung, Taiwan to contribute to the development of diabetes.[fn] Chen, YW; et al. “Heavy metals, islet function and diabetes development.” Islets. November-December 2009. Accessed 19 October 2015. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21099269 [/fn]
And it’s not just foreign wines we’re talking about. A 2015 report suggests that 28 well-known California wineries may be selling wines that contain high arsenic levels. These popular, inexpensive brands were tested and found to exceed the maximum amount of arsenic allowed in drinking water by the EPA, some to a shocking degree. And excessive intake of arsenic has been linked with such health problems as cancer, cardiovascular disease–and diabetes.
So it would seem that, while it’s probably safe from a blood-sugar perspective for people with diabetes to enjoy a nice glass of Chianti from time to time, it may not be the healthiest idea for any of us to drink wine daily. Unless you can find a wine maker confirmed to produce wines low in heavy metals–or regularly do a heavy metal detox–the risks cannot be ignored for diabetics and non-diabetics alike.