Inflammation not a factor in drinking-diabetes link

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Drinking moderate amounts of alcohol may protect women from developing type 2 diabetes, but the effect of alcohol on inflammation and blood vessel function doesn’t appear to explain the relationship, new research suggests.

Dr. Joline W. J. Beulens of University Medical Center Utrecht, The Netherlands, and colleagues found that adiponectin — a hormone secreted by fatty tissue that regulates how the body uses fat and glucose (sugar) — accounted for much of alcohol’s protective effect, but not all of it.

These results “cast some doubt” on the physiological importance of the effects of alcohol on inflammation, blood vessel function, and glucose metabolism, the researchers write, calling the lack of a relationship “surprising.”

Drinking moderately is known to cut the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, largely by boosting levels of “good” HDL-cholesterol. Moderate drinking can also reduce inflammation and improve endothelial function, or the blood vessels’ ability to respond to demands on the cardiovascular system, both of which are linked to diabetes risk. There is also evidence that alcohol consumption may improve the body’s sensitivity to insulin.

To investigate whether these factors might account for alcohol’s protective effects the researchers compared 705 women participating in the Nurses’ Health Study who developed diabetes between 1989 and 2000 and 787 diabetes-free controls. Most of the women in the study either did not drink or consumed 12.5 grams of alcohol daily, on average. A standard drink contains about 10 grams of alcohol.

For every 12.5 grams of increased alcohol intake, the risk of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes fell by 42 percent, the researchers found.

Statistical analysis showed that inflammation markers, markers of poor endothelial function, and degree of insulin sensitivity were not involved in the relationship. But levels of adiponectin accounted for 25 percent of alcohol’s protective effect after the researchers accounted for body weight.

“This finding suggests that, apart from adiponectin, other pathways may be less important,” Beulens and her colleagues write. Inflammation and endothelial dysfunction may be related to type 2 diabetes risk because both are associated with obesity, they add.

SOURCE: Diabetes Care, October 2008.

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