Women who binge drink put themselves at risk of diabetes in later life

booze diabetes

Regularly drinking large amounts of alcohol from the age of just 16 is linked to higher blood glucose levels in women later in life, which is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes.

A new study looked at alcohol consumption data over a 27 year period, starting in adolescence, in relation to blood glucose levels recorded at age 43.

In women, total alcohol consumption and binge drinking behaviour was associated with higher blood glucose levels, regardless of BMI, hypertension, and whether or not the woman smoked.

The study, published in BMC Public Health, found that the results were not the same for men, in whom only BMI and hypertension were associated with increased blood glucose.

While the association between alcohol, binge drinking, and blood glucose was only significant in women, men still had higher blood glucose levels than women and consumed almost three times as much alcohol between the ages of 16 and 43.

Previous studies have suggested certain mechanisms that could lead to the association between alcohol and raised blood glucose levels.

Ethanol can increase insulin resistance, which leads to accumulation of glucose in the blood, and studies in rats have shown that binge drinking alters metabolism in a way that negatively affects insulin.

Lead study author Dr Karina Nygren, of Umea University, Sweden, said: “Because higher blood glucose is a risk factor for the development of type 2 diabetes, our data suggests that informing people about the risk of high alcohol consumption at a young age could have positive health impacts further down the line.

“Although there are some biological explanations behind why alcohol can directly lead to increased levels of glucose in the blood, the difference between men and women in our study is more difficult to explain.”

Data included in the study came from the Northern Swedish Cohort study which began in 1981, and a total of 897 people from this study answered a questionnaire about alcohol consumption when they were 16, 18, 21, 30, and 43 years old.

A blood sample was taken when the participants were aged 43, in order to assess blood glucose levels.

Participants were asked a questionnaire containing eight questions about their alcohol consumption, and binge drinking was defined as having four or more standard drinks per occasion, or five or more for men, at least once a month.

While the study shows an association between higher blood glucose and consumption, it doesn’t show cause and effect. The data was also limited by the fact the study used a self-reported questionnaire.

Despite the drawbacks, the long term nature of the study, involving multiple follow ups, does offer an insight into the drinking behaviours of people throughout the course of their lives.

Page last updated June 2017

Imogen Robinson

Imogen was The Femedic’s original Deputy Editor. She joined The Femedic after working as a news reporter. Becoming frustrated with the neverending clickbait, she jumped at the chance to work for a site whose ethos revolves around honesty and empathy. From reading articles by doctors to researching her own, and discussing health with a huge variety of women, she is fascinated by just how little we are told about our own bodies and women-specific health issues, and is excited to be working on a site which will dispel myths and taboos, and hopefully help a lot of women.

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