Page last updated: 1 April 22, 2013

Binge drinking may increase Type II diabetes risk by causing insulin resistance

Results of an animal study led by researchers at the Diabetes Obesity and Metabolism Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai indicate that binge drinking causes insulin resistance, which can lead to an increased risk of Type II diabetes. The authors also identified that alcohol disrupts insulin-receptor signaling by causing inflammation in the hypothalamus area of the brain.

In the study, researchers treated rats with alcohol for three consecutive days to simulate human binge drinking. A control group received the same amount of calories. Once alcohol was no longer detectable in blood, glucose metabolism was studied through either glucose-tolerance tests or through controlled-insulin infusions. The rats treated with alcohol were found to have higher concentrations of plasma insulin than the control group, suggesting that insulin resistance may have been the cause of the impaired glucose tolerance.

High plasma insulin levels are a major component of the metabolic syndrome, a group of risk factors that occur together and increase the risk for Type II diabetes, coronary artery disease, and stroke.

Christoph Buettner, MD, PhD, senior author of the study and Associate Professor of Medicine stated that ‘“insulin resistance has emerged as a key metabolic defect leading to Type II diabetes and coronary artery disease (CAD)”. He added that “Someone who regularly binge drinks even once a week, over many years, may remain in an insulin resistant state for an extended period of time, potentially years”.

Claudia Lindtner, MD, first author of the study and an Associate Researcher of Medicine, Endocrinology, Diabetes and Bone Disease at the Icahn School of Medicine said that previously it had been unclear as to whether binge drinking was associated with an increased risk for diabetes, since a person who binge drinks may also tend to binge eat, or at least eat too much. The study data show for the first time that binge drinking induces insulin resistance directly and can occur independent of differences in caloric intake.

Source: Binge Drinking Induces Whole-Body Insulin Resistance by Impairing Hypothalamic Insulin Action. 2013 C. Lindtner, T. Scherer, E. Zielinski, N. Filatova, M. Fasshauer, N. K. Tonks, M. Puchowicz, C. Buettner. Science Translational Medicine.

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