Relationship Between Alcohol Consumption, Hypertension and Diabetes

July 28, 2004

Researchers at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center will seek to determine the influence of alcohol consumption on risk of developing hypertension and type 2 diabetes using data collected during a five-year study of a prediabetic condition.

The prediabetic condition is an increase in insulin resistance—it takes more and more insulin to digest the same amount of glucose, the principal product of the digestion of carbohydrates.

Capri G. Foy, Ph.D., a research associate in the Department of Public Health Sciences will use study data collected during the Insulin Resistance Atherosclerosis Study (IRAS) to try to resolve divergent findings from earlier studies about the relationship of alcohol, diabetes and hypertension.

IRAS analyzed the relationship between insulin resistance and cardiovascular risk factors among U.S. adults.

The new analysis will be funded by a $65,008 grant from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation under a pilot research program seeking to integrate substance abuse issues into mainstream medicine.

“Alcohol consumption is highly prevalent in the United States, with a majority of Americans being self-described current drinkers,” Foy said. But studies on the effect of alcohol on diabetes have produced mixed messages.

She said that several studies “identified heavy drinking as a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, while other evidence suggests that moderate alcohol consumption – 1 to 2 drinks per day – is associated with reduced risk of type 2 diabetes compared to complete abstinence or heavy consumption.”

Studies of the relationship between alcohol consumption and high blood pressure, another major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, also have produced mixed results, Foy said. Some studies suggest that moderate consumption is associated with reduced risk of high blood pressure, but that heavy drinking may increase the risk.

However, some evidence suggests that a protective effect of moderate alcohol consumption on hypertension may be less pronounced among women, Foy said.

Wake Forest Baptist was the national coordinating center for the IRAS study, which was financed by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and conducted in the early 1990s in four communities: San Antonio, Texas, San Luis, Colo., Oakland, Calif., and Los Angeles. The IRAS study involved 1,624 participants, with similar numbers of men and women and comparable numbers of whites, blacks and Hispanics. Foy also noted that the IRAS database also includes both urban and rural settings.

Foy will examine data from IRAS participants who were free of diabetes when the study began and who had normal blood pressure and will determine if alcohol consumption is associated with new cases of these diseases.

The database includes comprehensive assessment of alcohol consumption, including the quantity and frequency of alcohol use, the type (beer, wine, liquor or combinations) and whether participants engaged in binge drinking.

Other investigators on this project include Lynne Wagenknecht, Dr.P.H., Ralph D’Agostino Jr., Ph.D., Mark Wolfson, Ph.D., David Goff, M.D., Ph.D, and Ronny Bell, Ph.D., all of the Department of Public Health Sciences at Wake Forest Baptist.


Media Contacts: Robert Conn,,, Shannon Koontz,, or Karen Richardson,, at 336-716-4587.

About Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center: Wake Forest Baptist is an academic health system comprised of North Carolina Baptist Hospital and Wake Forest University Health Sciences, which operates the university’s School of Medicine. The system comprises 1,282 acute care, psychiatric, rehabilitation and long-term care beds and is consistently ranked as one of “America’s Best Hospitals” by U.S. News & World Report.


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