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Effect of Alcohol Consumption on Diabetes Mellitus: A Systematic Review

Andrea A. Howard, MD, MS; Julia H. Arnsten, MD, MPH; and Marc N. Gourevitch, MD, MPH
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From Montefiore Medical Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York.


Acknowledgments: The authors thank Racheline G. Habousha, MSLS, AHIP, for assistance with the MEDLINE database searches, Alex D. Federman, MD, MPH, for assistance in refining the study questions, and Barbara J. Turner, MD, MSEd; A. Thomas McLellan, PhD; and Harry Shamoon, MD, for helpful comments on the manuscript.

Grant Support: By the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Potential Financial Conflicts of Interest: None disclosed.

Requests for Single Reprints: Andrea A. Howard, MD, MS, AIDS Research Program, Montefiore Medical Center, 111 East 210th Street, Bronx, NY 10467; e-mail, ahoward@montefiore.org.

Current Author Addresses: Drs. Howard and Arnsten: AIDS Research Program, Montefiore Medical Center, 111 East 210th Street, Bronx, NY 10467.

Dr. Gourevitch: Division of Substance Abuse, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, 1500 Waters Place, Parker Building, 6th Floor, Ward 20, Bronx, NY 10461.


Ann Intern Med. 2004;140(3):211-219. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-140-6-200403160-00011
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We performed a systematic review of the literature to assess the effect of alcohol consumption on risk for and management and complications of diabetes mellitus. The best evidence suggests that moderate alcohol consumption is associated with a decreased risk for diabetes, whereas heavy alcohol consumption may be associated with an increased risk. Furthermore, ingestion of moderate amounts of alcohol appears to have no acute effect on glycemic control in persons with diabetes. We found no studies that assessed the effects of alcohol use on diabetes self-care behaviors. Limited data suggest that alcohol ingestion along with use of a sulfonylurea or thiazolidinedione does not increase the risk for an adverse drug event. Our analysis demonstrates that mild to moderate alcohol consumption in persons with diabetes is associated with a decrease in cardiovascular events. However, the effect of alcohol use on other diabetic complications, including retinopathy, nephropathy, and neuropathy, remains uncertain.

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Summary for Patients

Effects of Drinking on the Risk for Diabetes and Its Complications

The summary below is from the full report titled “Effect of Alcohol Consumption on Diabetes Mellitus. A Systematic Review.” It is in the 3 February 2004 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine (volume 140, pages 211–219). The authors are A.A. Howard, J.H. Arnsten, and M.N. Gourevitch.

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