For Immediate Release: 26 June 1998
Contact: Lois Baker
University at Buffalo
Moderate Drinking May Protect Heart By Improving Insulin Resistance,
CHICAGO, Ill.--A partial answer to the question of how moderate drinking helps to
protect against coronary heart disease may be found in a new University at Buffalo study
linking alcohol consumption with improved insulin sensitivity.
Analysis of a large Italian database by UB epidemiologists showed that the prevalence
of a condition precipitated by insulin resistance called Syndrome X, which is
characterized by abnormal levels of triglycerides, HDL cholesterol, blood pressure and
glucose--all risk factors for heart disease--was significantly higher among non-drinkers
Results also showed that Syndrome X incidence declined as alcohol consumption increased
and that the effect seemed to be more pronounced in women than in men. The apparent
beneficial effect of drinking peaked at the 3-to-4 drinks-per-day level for both men and
women, however. Syndrome X incidence began to climb in women who consumed more than four
drinks per day, findings showed.
Results of the study by Jian Liu, M.D. and Maurizio Trevisan, M.D., of UB's Department
of Social and Preventive Medicine, were presented here today by Liu (June 26, 1998) at the
annual meeting of the Society for Epidemiologic Research.
Insulin resistance is a condition in which the pancreas produces sufficient amounts of
the hormone, but cells absorb it more slowly than normal, causing sugar (glucose) and
insulin to accumulate in the blood. Insulin resistance may be exacerbated by a bad diet,
lack of physical activity, genetic predisposition and being overweight, Trevisan said.
The symptoms that characterize Syndrome X put a severe strain on the heart and
arteries, he noted. Knowing that moderate drinking lowers the risk of heart attack, the UB
researchers sought to determine if a relationship existed between alcohol consumption and
insulin sensitivity, using Syndrome X as a marker.
The results could shed light on one possible mechanism through which alcohol may lower
the risk of heart disease, Trevisan said.
Trevisan and Liu analyzed data collected from 37,991 Italian men and women in nine
epidemiologic studies that comprise the Risk Factor and Life Expectancy Group. Their
analysis included information on the amount of alcohol consumed per day, along with
measurements of blood pressure, triglycerides, HDL cholesterol and blood glucose,
variables all related to insulin resistance.
Persons with Syndrome X were defined as having all of the following: