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Germany

Drink Up, Ladies!

Two drinks each day could keep diabetes away, particularly in older women, according to a study released earlier this month.

Michael Davies and David Baer of the Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center studied 63 women with diabetes, and found that those who were given specially-prepared alcoholic drinks reported much better control of their insulin levels - a hormone considered vital to preventing and treating diabetes - than women who consumed non-alcoholic drinks.

Davies and Baer wrote in a recent edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association that subjects who received two alcoholic drinks a day maintained more stable insulin levels than women given a plain orange drink.

Interestingly, the results were the same whether or not the women were overweight, which has long been considered a risk factor for the development of diabetes.

"Consumption of 30 grams a day of alcohol reduced insulin concentration and improved insulin sensitivity in nondiabetic, postmenopausal women independent of body mass index," they concluded.

The 63 women who participated in the study were divided into three groups: one which consumed no alcohol, another which consumed one drink per day, and a third group which was given two drinks per day. The drinks consisted of orange juice mixed with ethanol, a tasteless form of alcohol. The diets of all participants were also carefully controlled.

"The observed changes with alcohol intake may reduce the risk of developing Type II (also known as adult-onset) diabetes and cardiovascular disease in this population of women," they wrote.

But Baer was quick to caution against overdoing it. Although alcohol tends to lower blood sugar, he stressed that excessive alcohol consumption can actually increase a woman's risk of other diseases, such as colon and breast cancer.

"Drinking alcohol in excess is detrimental," he told a news conference.

The German punlication Ärzte-Woche (Doctors' Weekly) strongly echoes this caution, saying that although "alcohol protects diabetic patients from cardiovascular complications, it can also worsen the effects of the diabetes itself".

The German Association for Blood Diseases also states that alcohol can safely be consumed by diabetics, but again in moderation, and preferably with a meal high in carbohydrates to counteract the drop in blood sugar.

The group Diabetes-Deutschland, however, recommends avoiding alcohol altogether.

Volkskrankheit Diabetes

About 6.2 million Germans are currently affected by diabetes, with 95% or six million of those cases being type II, and 200,000 being type 1, or juvenile-onset.

In other words, around one in 16,000 German children has the disease, and among people age 50 and over this number jumps to an alarming one in 10. Almost a quarter of Germany's over-70 age group are diabetic.

As the country's population ages, the treatment of diabetes is expected to become more and more costly for the German health care system. Currently, treatment of the disease costs taxpayers about 11.6 billion euro each year.

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