Red wine has many proven health benefits. In recent years, scientists had conflicting hypotheses about the health effects of red wine among diabetics. A new study found red wine is beneficial to diabetes patients who are on a Mediterranean diet.

The health benefits and risks of red wine among diabetes patients require careful interpretation, which leaves doctors a bit cautious whether they should advise their patients to drink or abstain from it altogether.

A research team led by senior study author Iris Shai from the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, looked into a random mix of 224 patients with type 2 diabetes. The participants ranged from 40 to 75 years old. The patients were not alcohol drinkers but were advised to drink five ounces of either red wine, white wine or mineral water during dinner in the span of two years, wherein they also followed a Mediterranean diet. This type of diet is characterized by its focus on plant-based foods and the use of healthy fats like olive oil. Instead of salt, natural spices were used to flavor food. Mediterranean diet has been found to be good for the heart.

Eighty-seven percent of the participants completed the two-year test, wherein 80 percent drank a daily dose of wine. Researchers found that the red wine-drinking group had increased levels of 'good' high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. This 'good' cholesterol drives low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, commonly known as 'bad' cholesterol, from the arteries. This resulted in lowered risks of heart disease.

The red wine group also had thinner waistlines and lower blood pressure compared to participants who drank mineral water. Apart from a small group of participants whose alcohol processing levels are slower, majority of the patients involved in the study did not show blood sugar levels improvements.

"Although red wine was superior and preferable, we would not recommend to completely stick only to it, but to enjoy from both wines in moderation, and as part of a healthy diet," said Shai.

Endocrinologist Dr. Susan Spratt from Duke University School of Medicine worry on the sub context that the findings may be misconstrued as alcohol being good for diabetes.

"I worry about the subset of my type 2 diabetes patients who drink too much, and that this may give them more ammunition to say alcohol is good for diabetes. Over-drinking can poison the pancreas. In these patients, when they stop drinking, their diabetes gets tremendously better," said Spratt.

The findings were published in the Annals of Internal Medicine journal on Oct. 13.

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