Heavy Alcohol Use Associated with Elevated Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in Middle-Aged Adults

by Ella

New research, set to be unveiled at the American Physiology Summit in Long Beach, California, suggests a concerning link between heavy alcohol consumption and an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes among middle-aged adults. The American Physiology Summit, hosted by the American Physiological Society (APS), serves as a premier annual gathering for professionals in the field.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), heavy alcohol use is characterized by consuming five or more drinks per day for men, or 15 or more drinks per week. For women, heavy alcohol use is defined as consuming more than four drinks per day or eight or more drinks per week.


The detrimental effects of heavy alcohol consumption extend to crucial organs such as the liver and pancreas, potentially impairing their function. Such impairment can disrupt the body’s ability to regulate glucose levels effectively, leading to elevated blood sugar levels. While existing research suggests that young adults may not experience significant alterations in fasting glucose levels and insulin resistance due to heavy drinking, the implications for older adults, particularly in relation to Type 2 diabetes, remain uncertain as the population ages.


Researchers from the Cardiovascular Laboratory of Health at the University of Texas at Arlington conducted a study involving two cohorts of middle-aged adults aged 50 to 64. One group, termed “heavy drinkers,” exhibited characteristics indicating a predisposition to alcohol use disorder, as determined by the U.S. Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test. Additionally, the group underwent a dried blood spot phosphatidylethanol (PEth) test, which measures the presence of a biomarker indicative of alcohol consumption. A PEth score exceeding 20 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) signifies alcohol intake surpassing NIAAA guidelines. The second cohort, labeled “nonheavy drinkers,” exhibited PEth scores below 20 ng/mL.


Further analysis of blood samples from both groups revealed noteworthy disparities. Heavy drinkers displayed elevated fasting glucose levels, suggesting a potential adverse impact of heavy alcohol consumption on glucose regulation in older populations, as noted by the researchers.


These findings underscore the importance of considering the ramifications of heavy alcohol use, particularly concerning its potential role in exacerbating the risk of Type 2 diabetes among middle-aged individuals. As the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes continues to rise, understanding the contributory factors, including lifestyle behaviors such as alcohol consumption, is paramount in developing effective preventive strategies and interventions.



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