November is American Diabetes Month -- the 14th is World Diabetes Day -- and recent research notes that among the many health risks associated with alcohol, a significant danger among them is developing type 2 diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), the blood sugar disorder has reached near epidemic status in the United States and has largely been blamed on an increase in the percentage of the population considered overweight. However, alcohol abuse and the disease of alcoholism also contribute to the disease.
Heavy alcohol use (with moderate use being defined as one drink daily for women, two a day for men) damages the pancreas, the organ responsible for producing insulin naturally to regulate blood sugar. The more a person drinks, the more damage to that organ and the higher the risk of developing prediabetes, which can lead to type 2 diabetes.
The ADA defines prediabetes as when a person's blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be type 2 diabetes. Prediabetics are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
The risk of prediabetes may be even higher for people with high blood pressure, according to preliminary research introduced in April at the European Association for Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation's EuroPRevent meeting. Italian researchers found that patients with high blood pressure who drank more than 10 drinks a day had a six-times higher risk of developing a prediabetic condition.
Drinking alcohol, especially in large quantities, contributes to diabetes in three ways.
1. Heavy drinking can reduce the body’s sensitivity to insulin, according to the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism
2.Diabetes is a common side effect of chronic pancreatitis, which is overwhelmingly caused by heavy drinking, especially in men. (See related examiner.com article on the Y-chromosome and pancreatitis)
3.Alcohol contains a large amount of calories. One beer can be equivalent to a slice of pizza. (see examiner.com article on alcohol calories) The extra calories increase your chance of becoming overweight, another diabetes risk factor.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 26 million children and adults in the U.S. have diabetes and another 79 million Americans have prediabetes. Many people with alcohol use disorders already may be prediabetic and not know it, according to the ADA, “because the symptoms develop so gradually, people often don't recognize them. Some people have no symptoms at all.”
Signs of prediabetes include:
cuts/bruises that are slow to heal
tingling/numbness in the hands/feet
recurring skin, gum or bladder infections
Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, non-traumatic lower-limb amputations and new cases of blindness among adults, and a major cause of heart disease and stroke. It's the seventh-leading cause of death.