Recent research suggests that light to moderate drinking does not protect against developing diabetes or obesity, contrary to previous studies. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend practicing moderation when consuming alcohol, with adult males advised not to drink more than two drinks in a day and women advised to limit their drinking to one drink or less. Heavy alcohol consumption is associated with various health issues such as high blood pressure, liver disease, and heart disease. The effects of moderate alcohol consumption have been less certain, with some studies suggesting lower levels may be protective against certain diseases while others indicate increased risk.
A new study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism used a rigorous method called "Mendelian randomization" to estimate the potential causal effects of drinking as people's level of drinking increased. The study analyzed the self-reported alcohol consumption of over 400,000 people from the UK Biobank. The results showed that those who consumed more than 14 drinks per week had higher fat mass and a higher risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes. The link between alcohol consumption and these conditions was stronger for women than men.
Experts, including Dr. David Hu and Dr. John Mendelson, who were not involved in the study, agree that light-to-moderate drinking does not provide health benefits. Dr. Mendelson states that alcohol will not improve one's health and that individuals need to balance the risks and benefits of their behaviors. Dr. Hu adds that any potential benefits of light-to-moderate drinking are overshadowed by increased health risks in other areas, such as accidental injuries, diabetes, and even cancer.
While the health risks associated with light-to-moderate drinking are small compared to tobacco or other drug use, it is still important to be aware of what constitutes a standard drink and to monitor one's alcohol consumption. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism recommends keeping a diary of drinking habits, reducing alcohol availability at home, drinking slowly, taking breaks from alcohol, and seeking support from friends or family. Changing drinking habits may take time, but persistence is key.