The Relation of Light-to-Moderate Alcohol Consumption to Glucose Metabolism and Insulin Resistance in Nondiabetic Adults: the Moderating Effects of Depressive Symptom Severity, Adiposity, and Sex

Int J Behav Med. 2017 Dec;24(6):927-936. doi: 10.1007/s12529-017-9652-5.


Purpose: We examined the relation of alcohol consumption to glucose metabolism and insulin resistance (IR) as a function of depressive symptoms, adiposity, and sex.

Method: Healthy adults (aged 18-65 years) provided fasting blood samples and information on lifestyle factors. Alcohol intake was categorized as never, infrequent (1-3 drinks/month), occasional (1-7 drinks/week), and regular (≥2 drinks/day) drinkers. The Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) was used to assess symptom severity. Primary outcomes were fasting insulin, glucose, and IR assessed by the homeostasis model assessment (HOMA).

Results: In univariate analysis, alcohol consumption was negatively associated with HOMA-IR (p = 0.03), insulin (p = 0.007), and body mass index (BMI) (p = 0.04), but not with glucose or BDI. Adjusting for potential confounders including BMI, alcohol consumption was associated with HOMA-IR (p = 0.01) and insulin (p = 0.009) as a function of BDI and sex. For women with minimal depressive symptoms, light-to-moderate alcohol consumption was associated with lower HOMA-IR and insulin. Alcohol consumption was not associated with metabolic markers in women with higher depressive symptoms and in men. In analysis using BMI as a continuous moderator, alcohol consumption was only associated with insulin (p = 0.004). Post-hoc comparisons between BMI groups (<25 vs ≥25 kg/m2) revealed that light-to-moderate alcohol consumption was associated with lower insulin but only in subjects with BMI ≥ 25 kg/m2.

Conclusions: The benefits of light-to-moderate alcohol consumption on fasting insulin and IR are sex dimorphic and appear to be independently moderated by adiposity and depressive symptom severity.

Keywords: Adiposity; Alcohol consumption; Depressive symptom severity; Insulin resistance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adiposity
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Young Adult


  • Insulin
  • Glucose