Page last updated: Friday, October 26, 2007
A drink with meals lowers blood sugar afterward
Dr. Jennie C. Brand-Miller of The University of Sydney and colleagues report that consuming an alcoholic drink with a meal may help reduce the subsequent rise in blood sugar levels. This may provide and explanation of how moderate drinking reduces heart disease and diabetes risk.

Alcohol consumption is known to reduce sugar formation in the body, known scientifically as gluconeogenesis, while increasing sensitivity to insulin, Brand-Miller and her team note. To investigate whether a drink with a meal might help reduce the increase in blood glucose levels that occurs after eating, the researchers conducted successive tests with young adult volunteers without diabetes.

The researchers first tested the effect of drinking beer, white wine, or gin compared to eating the equivalent amount of calories in carbohydrate. Each of the alcoholic beverages produced a smaller rise in blood sugar than the bread, while insulin response to the drinks was also lower than to the bread, according to the report.

In the next experiment, the researcher found that blood sugar rose less when any of the alcoholic beverages were consumed with the bread compared to eating bread with water. Wine had the strongest effect, while the effect of beer was the weakest.

In a third situation, when study participants drank before a meal - specifically, the equivalent of about two drinks of beer, wine or gin an hour before eating a meal of instant mashed potatoes - the post-meal blood glucose increase also was lower than when they drank water. However, there was no difference in the effect on insulin levels when an alcoholic beverage was consumed instead of water with or before a meal.

“Under realistic conditions, moderate quantities of beer, wine, and gin reduce postprandial glycemia (i.e., post-meal blood sugar) by up to 37% in lean healthy subjects,” Brand-Miller and her team state. This is likely because alcohol reduced gluconeogenesis as well as release of glucose by the liver, they add.

“We conclude that alcoholic beverages consumed alone, with or before a carbohydrate-containing meal, are capable of reducing peak blood glucose concentrations or the overall postprandial glucose response in young, lean, healthy subjects,” they write. “These effects may provide a hitherto unrecognized benefit of moderate alcohol consumption for cardiovascular health.”

Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, June 2007

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