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Alcohol consumption and risk of male type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes remains one of the fastest-growing conditions in the United States. A number of studies have found connections between moderate alcohol consumption and reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes, compared with abstention or excessive consumption. However, most of these studies only measured alcohol consumption at one point in time and then assumed relatively stable consumption rates.

A 2010 study published in the Diabetes Journal, “Changes in Alcohol Consumption and Subsequent Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in Men,” examined the connection between fluctuation in alcohol consumption levels over time and subsequent risk of Type 2 diabetes. Beginning in 1990, the study began tracking the alcohol consumption of more than 38,000 men who did not initially have diabetes. During the 20-year study — which asked subjects to report their consumption every four years — 1,905 men were diagnosed with diabetes at some point. The study group was comprised of middle-aged American health professionals.

The study’s key findings include:

  • For nondrinkers and those initially consuming a drink or less per day — the equivalent of 15 or fewer grams of alcohol —  an increase of alcohol by approximately half a glass a day over a four-year period was associated with lowered diabetes risk.
  • Men already consuming more than one drink a day did not lower their risk by increasing alcohol consumption.
  • Light drinkers who initially consumed less than a third of a drink a day, and who then increased to moderate levels (two drinks or fewer a day), had a lower diabetes risk than light drinkers whose consumption remained stable over the same four-year period.

The study suggests that an increase in alcohol consumption for non-drinkers or light drinkers is associated with diminished risk for Type 2 diabetes. The researchers cautioned that the study’s findings did not necessarily indicate causality, nor could they be generalized. “These results … are limited to a single outcome of diabetes,” a researcher stated, and emphasized that the impacts of alcohol on other aspects of health should be taken into consideration.

Tags: medicine

    Writer: | Last updated: February 25, 2011

    Citation: Joosten, Michel, et al. "Changes in Alcohol Consumption and Subsequent Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in Men," The Diabetes Journal, September, 2010, Vol. 60, No.1, 74-79.DOI: 10.2337/db10-1052.

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    Analysis assignments

    Read this press release about the study "Moderate Alcohol Intake May Decrease Men's Risk for Type 2 Diabetes."

    1. If you had written an article based only on the press release, what would have been its main shortcoming(s)?

    Newswriting assignments

    1. Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study.
    2. Spend 60 minutes exploring the issue by accessing sources of information other than the study. Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study but informed by the new information. Does the new information significantly change what one would write based on the study alone?
    3. Interview two sources with a stake in or knowledge of the issue. Be prepared to provide them with a short summary of the study in order to get their response to it. Write a 400-word article about the study incorporating material from the interviews.
    4. Spend additional time exploring the issue and then write a 1,200-word background article, focusing on major aspects of the issue.