Glass of red wine a night could help people with diabetes manage cholesterol and protect their hearts, says study

Research into the health benefits of red wine, however, remains controversial territory

Charlie Cooper
Thursday 07 May 2015 10:39 BST

Drinking a glass of red wine every night may help people with diabetes to manage their cholesterol and protect their hearts, a new study has found.

In a trial of more than 220 type 2 diabetes patients assigned a standard Mediterranean diet, those who were also allowed one 150ml glass of red with dinner ended up with higher levels of so-called ‘good cholesterol’ than those who drank white wine or mineral water.

People with diabetes are more vulnerable to developing heart disease than the general population.

They often have low levels of good cholesterol, or HDL, which helps remove ‘bad cholesterol’, or LDL, and is thought to protect improve heart health, possibly protecting against heart attacks and strokes.

In the study, which was carried out over the course of two years, people who drank red wine saw “modest” increases in HDL. Those who drank either wine and were genetically predisposed to metabolise alcohol well also had better blood sugar control.

The Israeli researchers behind the study said that genetic profiling could be used to identify type 2 diabetes patients who might benefit from moderate wine-drinking.

Research into the health benefits – or lack thereof – of red wine remains controversial territory.

Numerous studies in recent years have linked moderate consumption with lower levels of bad cholesterol and better heart health, and it has even been suggested as an explanation for the so-called ‘French paradox’ – the fact the country has low heart disease rates, despite rich diets heavy in cheese and red meat.

It is thought that the effect may be caused by an, as yet unidentified, ingredient of red wine – a theory backed up by the latest findings, which found red wine was, overall, more beneficial than white.

However, research into the chemical resveratrol – believed by some to be the mystery ingredient – concluded last year that mortality rates were no lower in those who consumed more of it.

Doctors have also emphasised that drinking any more than moderate amounts of red wine – more than a small glass or two a day – is still considered very bad for health, particularly raising the risk of heart disease and some cancers.

The findings from the new diabetes study, carried out by researchers from the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel, alongside experts from Harvard School of Public Health and Leipzig University, are being presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Prague this week.

The authors, led by Professor Iris Shai, said: “This first long-term large scale alcohol trial suggests that ini¬tiating moderate wine intake, especially red-wine, among well-controlled type 2 diabetes patients, and as part of healthy diet, is apparently safe and decreases car¬diometabolic risk.

While the genetic interaction supports specific causal roles for [alcohol], the red-wine's superiority suggests that non-alcoholic constituents of red wine could be having a positive impact.”

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