Researchers reveal how binge drinking increases the risk of type 2 diabetes

by Barbara Hewitt on February 1, 2013

Researchers reveal how binge drinking increases the risk of type 2 diabetes

Binge drinking causes insulin resistance which increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, according to a new study by researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. Alcohol disrupts insulin receptor signalling by causing inflammation in the hypothalamus area of the brain, according to the researchers at the school’s Diabetes Obesity and Metabolism Institute.

‘Insulin resistance has emerged as a key metabolic defect leading to type 2 diabetes and coronary artery disease,’ said Christoph Buettner, senior author of the study and Associate Professor of Medicine, Endocrinology, Diabetes and Bone Disease. ‘Someone who regularly binge drinks even once a week, over many years, may remain in an insulin resistant state for an extended period of time, potentially years,’ he explained.

The main role of the insulin receptor is to control the uptake of glucose and a decrease in signalling of this receptor means the cells can’t take up glucose. This will result in hyperglycaemia (too much glucose in the blood) and other consequences of type 2 diabetes.

Insulin resistance is where insulin does not bind properly to the receptor, thus hampering its ability to send the right signals to cells so they can use glucose for energy. This can happen even when the pancreas is producing enough insulin to keep glucose levels under control. The researchers treated rats with alcohol for three consecutive days to simulate human binge drinking and a control group received the same amount of calories.

Once alcohol was no longer detectable in blood, glucose metabolism was studied through either glucose tolerance tests or through controlled insulin infusions. The rats treated with alcohol were found to have higher concentrations of plasma insulin than the control group, suggesting that insulin resistance may have been the cause of the impaired glucose tolerance. High plasma insulin levels are a major component of the metabolic syndrome, a group of risk factors that occur together and increase the risk for type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease, and stroke.

Quote from DiabetesForum.com : “Traditionally, I’m not a heavy drinker, but on occasion, I’d enjoy a night out. How is alcohol best managed? I’m talking about low carb beer or shots. What can I expect? What should I look out for? My diabetes educator recommends no more than a couple drinks. Sorry but I have some livin left to do, can I do better than this!?”

‘Previously it was unclear whether binge drinking was associated with an increased risk of diabetes, since a person who binge drinks may also tend to binge eat, or at least eat too much,’ said Claudia Lindtner, first author of the study and an Associate Researcher of Medicine, Endocrinology, Diabetes and Bone Disease at the Icahn School of Medicine. ‘Our data shows for the first time that binge drinking induces insulin resistance directly and can occur independent of differences in caloric intake,’ she added.


The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the DiabetesForum.com Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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