Context: Despite nutrition information and guidelines that advise against depriving diabetic patients of the potential benefit of moderate alcohol intake against cardiovascular events, the association between alcohol consumption and risk of cardiovascular outcomes in diabetic individuals has not been determined.
Objective: To examine the relationship between alcohol intake and coronary heart disease (CHD) mortality in persons with older-onset diabetes.
Design: Population-based, prospective cohort study conducted from 1984 through 1996, with a follow-up of up to 12.3 years.
Setting and participants: A total of 983 older-onset diabetic individuals (mean [SD] age, 68.6 [11.0] years; 45.2% male; 98.5% white) were interviewed about their past-year intake of alcoholic beverages during the 1984-1986 follow-up examination of a population-based study of diabetic persons in southern Wisconsin.
Main outcome measure: Time to mortality from CHD by category alcohol intake.
Results: Alcohol use was inversely associated with risk of CHD mortality in older-onset diabetic subjects. The CHD mortality rates for never and former drinkers were 43.9 and 38.5 per 1000 person-years, respectively, while the rates for those with alcohol intakes of less than 2, 2 to 13, and 14 or more g/d were 25.3, 20.8, and 10.0 per 1000 person-years, respectively. Compared with never drinkers and controlling for age, sex, cigarette smoking, glycosylated hemoglobin level, insulin use, plasma C-peptide level, history of angina or myocardial infarction, digoxin use, and the presence and severity of diabetic retinopathy, former drinkers had a relative risk (RR) of 0.69 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.43-1.12); for those who drank less than 2 g/d (less frequent than 1 drink a week), the RR was 0.54 (95% CI, 0.33-0.90); for 2 to 13 g/d, it was 0.44 (95% CI, 0.23-0.84); and for 14 or more g/d (about 1 drink or more a day), it was 0.21 (95% CI, 0.09-0.48). Further adjustments for blood pressure, body mass index, education, physical activity, diabetes duration, hypertension history, overt nephropathy, peripheral neuropathy, lipid measures, or intake of medications such as aspirin and antihypertensive agents did not change the associations observed.
Conclusion: Our results suggest an overall beneficial effect of alcohol consumption in decreasing the risk of death due to CHD in people with older-onset diabetes.