For years, the medical profession has warned that alcohol could worsen the complications of diabetes. Now comes evidence that moderate consumption is safe.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis tested 18 patients (mean age 64 years) who had an eight-year history of type 2 diabetes. None of the subjects was taking insulin. The patients were hospitalized for two days and randomly assigned to drink either 8 oz of wine or 8 oz of grape juice with their evening meals. After testing the patients’ blood repeatedly in the hours following the meals, researchers detected no significant change in plasma glucose or serum insulin in either group.

To assess habitual use of alcohol, the patients were sent home and randomly assigned to consume 4-8 oz of wine daily for 30 days and then to abstain for 30 days. Wine intake produced a slight decline in fasting serum insulin, suggesting improved insulin sensitivity.

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Compared with abstinence, consumption yielded no significant changes in the levels of total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, triglyceride, fasting insulin, hemoglobin A1c, or C-reactive protein.

Our findings are pertinent for all people with diabetes,” says John Bantle, MD, professor of medicine, whose paper has been provisionally accepted for publication by Diabetes Care. “The study is important because people with diabetes are usually told not to consume alcohol.

There is really no evidence that it’s harmful. Our study suggests that it’s neither beneficial nor harmful. So a diabetic patient can opt to drink or not drink as he sees fit, as long as it is done in moderation.”

One thing diabetics should definitely add to their diet is soluble fiber from fruits and whole grains, according to another study, presented at a conference in Boston. Doctors in Brazil found that the two types of food were associated with a 22% and 54% lower risk of metabolic syndrome, respectively, in patients with type 2 diabetes. (For more on the metabolic syndrome, our other feature story.)