Page last updated: June 27, 2018

Alcohol use patterns and risk of diabetes onset

One of the major limitations in studying alcohol’s effect on risk for diabetes is the issue of classifying drinking patterns across the life course prior to the onset of diabetes. Research often overlooks important life course risk factors such as obesity and early-life health problems that may complicate estimation of the relationship between alcohol and diabetes.

A study used data from the US National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 cohort of 8,282 14-21 year olds followed through 2012. Alcohol use was captured through time-varying measures of past month volume and frequency of days with 6+ drinks. The risk of developing diabetes was estimated controlling for demographics, early-life characteristics and timevarying risk factors of employment, smoking, and body mass index (BMI) group, stratified by sex and race/ethnicity. Increased odds of diabetes onset was found among lifetime abstainers for women compared to the low volume reference group (odds ratio (OR) 1.57; 95% Confidence Interval (CI) 1.07-2.3).

Increased odds of diabetes onset was also found among women who reported drinking 6+ drinks in a day on a weekly basis during the prior 10 years (OR 1.55; CI 1.04- 2.31). Models interacting alcohol and BMI groups found increased odds of diabetes onset from lifetime abstention among overweight women only (OR 3.06; CI 1.67-5.60).

This study confirms previous findings of the protective effects from low volume drinking compared to lifetime abstention and the harmful effects from regular heavy drinking for women. Further, protective effects from higher doses of regular consumption in this US sample were limited to overweight women only.

Source: Alcohol use patterns and risk of diabetes onset in the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth Cohort Kerr WC, Williams E, Li L, Lui CK, Ye Y, Greenfield TK, Lown AE. Preventive Medicine. Vol 109, 2018, pp22-27.

DOI: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2018.01.010.
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