Here’s one solid reason to never binge drink.
It said heavy drinking at least once a month has raised the chances of having higher blood sugar levels by middle age – a major risk factor for diabetes.
A recent Swedish study, published in the BMC Public Health journal, showed that women are in a more vulnerable position when it comes to this.
Researchers followed close to 900 people for 27 years, from the age of 16 to 43.
Women in their teens who binge drank once a month – the researchers defined this as consuming more than six units of alcohol in one evening – found their blood sugar levels in their 40s to be about 7 per cent higher than women who did not binge drink.
Six units of alcohol is the equivalent of four small glasses of wine or four bottles of beer.
The same correlation, however, is not seen in men, which has puzzled scientists.
Dr Vivien Lim Chin Chin, an endocrinologist at Gleneagles Hospital, said it could be due to sex differences when it comes to handling ethanol found in alcoholic beverages.
In Singapore, binge drinking is prevalent in a small group – just 4.3 per cent of women aged 18 to 69.
The study, however, becomes a health warning when viewed against the backdrop of Singapore’s war against diabetes.
Alcohol raises glucose levels, thanks to ethanol’s association with higher insulin resistance.
Insulin is required for blood glucose to be converted to fuel in cells.
With higher insulin resistance caused by ethanol, the pancreas has to work harder to produce more insulin, said Dr Lim, who is also the president of the Endocrine and Metabolic Society of Singapore.
She said: “In people whose pancreas cannot produce this greater amount of insulin, the glucose levels will then rise and there is an increased risk of developing diabetes in the future.”
Diabetes is not the only condition linked to binge drinking or heavy alcohol consumption in women.
The list of ailments includes an increased risk of alcoholic liver disease, being involved in a road traffic accident, brain damage, heart problems and even cancers such as breast cancer, said Dr Lim.
Though differences may apply due to the various ethnic groups here, she thinks the study provides useful statistics.
“To win a war, we need all the information about the enemy that we can get. As such, this study adds on to the knowledge that we have amassed so far.
“I think it is most important that one imbibes – be it food or alcohol – with care. Moderation is the name of the game,” she said.
A version of this story first appeared in The New Paper on 17 July, 2017, with the headline, ‘Binge drinking raises diabetes risk in women’.