The Traditions of Dr. Bacchus

The Traditions of Dr. Bacchus

“Food, in the end, in our own tradition, is something holy. It’s not about nutrients and calories. It’s about sharing. It’s about honesty. It’s about identity.” ~ Louise Fresco

 30 Dec 09 012susnset

Many studies have correlated moderate alcohol consumption, particularly red wine, with a decreased risk of developing diabetes. But what about those folks already suffering from type II diabetes? A new study published this week in The Annals of Internal Medicine examines that exact question.

The study looked at over 200 people with type II diabetes over a two-year period. Everyone in the study consumed a Mediterranean diet (without caloric restriction); an approach which has been shown to reduce significant complications and improve overall health for those with this condition. Participants were then randomly assigned to consume mineral water, white wine or red wine. Everyone received 150 mL (approximately 5 ounces, about one glass) of the assigned liquid with dinner. All of the participants in the study had abstained from the consumption of alcohol prior to enrollment. The researchers followed everyone for about two years.

Those consuming red wine saw a statistically significant increase in their high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C, “good cholesterol”) level. There was an increase in their apolipoprotein (a)1 level, another blood lipid marker associated with improved cardiovascular outcomes. Those enjoying a glass of red wine with dinner each evening significantly decreased the total cholesterol–HDL-C ratio by almost a third; a lower ratio is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular complications.

Interestingly, there was a genetic predisposition to benefit. Those who were genetically slow ethanol metabolizers (alcohol dehydrogenase alleles [ADH1B*1] carriers) saw benefit from the consumption of either red wine or white wine. The consumption of either red wine or white wine in this group produced better control of their sugars in both the short and long-term (fasting plasma glucose, homeostatic model assessment of insulin resistance, and hemoglobin A1c). Those who were fast ethanol metabolizers (persons homozygous for ADH1B*2) show benefit only with red wine. Regardless of genetics, a glass of wine (red or white) was significantly associated with improved sleep quality.

The researchers conclude that initiating moderate wine intake, especially red wine, among well-controlled diabetics as part of a healthy diet is safe and yields a modest decrease in their overall cardiometabolic risk. Moderate alcohol consumption has always been part of the traditional Mediterranean diet. Tradition it seems, can be not only holy, but healthy.


Gepner, Y., Golan, R., Harman-Boehm, I., Henkin, Y., Schwarzfuchs, D., Shelef, I., . . . Heleander, A. (2015). Effects of Initiating Moderate Alcohol Intake on Cardiometabolic Risk in Adults With Type 2 Diabetes: A 2-Year Randomized, Controlled Trial. Ann Intern Med., doi:10.7326/M14-1650.

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