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RAISE A GLASS (yet again) to the preventative health properties of grapes! A University of Denmark study of 7O,5OO people has found that men who drink three to four times a week slash their risk of Type 2 diabetes by 27 percent, compared to those who drink less than one day. Women can cut their odds by almost a third, with the polyphenols from the grapes in red wine believed to help control blood sugar. The Danish study found beer may also protect against diabetes too. The researchers found drinking three to four times a week works best, as infrequent drinkers tend to drink more. Those who binge-drink, rather than drinking small amounts regularly, could reverse the benefits of alcohol by causing weight gain, which is one of the causes of Type 2 diabetes.

The best amount to drink to prevent diabetes, based on the study, is 14 drinks a week for men and nine for women. For women, the equivalent of just over a bottle and a half of wine a week cut their risk of type 2 diabetes by 58 percent compared to those who did not drink at all. Men who had 14 drinks a week, or just over nine pints of beer, were found to have a 43 percent lower risk. The study looked at both the number of drinks and how often people drank, based on questionnaires, and followed them up for an average of 4.9 years. The results were adjusted to reflect factors such as people’s weight, diet and family history of diabetes. Scientists still do not know how alcohol may help ward off Type 2 diabetes, which tends to affect people in middle age and is caused by poor diet and lack of exercise, unlike Type 1 diabetes, which is caused by an immune system failure. But the study, published in the journal Diabetologia, states: “One possible biological explanation of the protective effect of wine is that polyphenols, natural phytochemical compounds found in red wine, may exert beneficial effects on blood glucose control and thereby lowering the risk of Type 2 diabetes.”

The authors found, however, that gin and vodka may not work as well as wine and beer, with women drinking seven or more drinks of spirits a week raising their diabetes risk by 83 percent over those who had less than one a week. Consuming between one and six beers per week gave a 21 percent lower risk of diabetes in men compared with men drinking less than one beer a week, while it was not associated with diabetes risk in women.