The ability to interpret epidemiologic observations is limited because of potential residual confounding by correlated dietary components. Dietary pattern analyses by factor analysis or partial least squares may overcome the limitation. To examine confounding by dietary pattern as well as standard risk factors and selected nutrients, the authors modeled the longitudinal association between alcohol consumption and 7-year risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus in 2,879 healthy adults enrolled in the Framingham Offspring Study (1991-2001) by Cox proportional hazard models. After adjustment for standard risk factors, consumers of > or =9.0 drinks/week had a significantly lower risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus compared with abstainers (hazard ratio = 0.47, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.27, 0.81). Adjustment for selected nutrients had little effect on the hazard ratio, whereas adjustment for dietary pattern variables by factor analysis significantly shifted the hazard ratio away from null (hazard ratio = 0.33, 95% CI: 0.17, 0.64) by 40.0% (95% CI: 16.8, 57.0; P = 0.002). Dietary pattern variables by partial least squares showed similar results. Therefore, the observed inverse association, consistent with past studies, was confounded by dietary patterns, and this confounding was not captured by individual nutrient adjustment. The data suggest that alcohol intake, not dietary patterns associated with alcohol intake, is responsible for the observed inverse association with type 2 diabetes mellitus risk.