Consuming it three or four days per week resulted in a reduced risk of 27% in men and 32% in women, compared with abstaining.
However drinking spirits like gin and vodka increased the risk among women.
The new study looked at data on 70,551 men and women, who were quizzed about their drinking habits and monitored for five years. It found:
:: Men who drank 14 alcoholic drinks per week were 43% less likely to develop diabetes than those who didn’t drink at all.
:: Women who consumed nine drinks per week were 58% less likely to develop diabetes than non-drinkers.
:: Wine had the most beneficial effect. For both men and women, seven or more glasses of wine per week lowered the risk of diabetes by 25-30% compared with having less than one glass of wine. Researchers believe this is because it contains chemical compounds that improve blood sugar balance.
:: One to six beers per week reduced diabetes risk by 21% in men but had no
effect on women.
:: Gin and other spirits didn’t have a positive effect, in fact a daily tipple increased diabetes risk in women by 83%.
Writing in the journal Diabetologi, the authors, led by Professor Janne Tolstrup from the University of Southern Denmark, said: “Our findings suggests that alcohol drinking frequency is associated with the risk of diabetes and that consumption of alcohol over three to four weekdays is associated with the lowest risks of diabetes, even after taking average weekly consumption into account.”
It’s worth noting the investigation did not distinguish between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.
Responding to the study’s claims, Rosanna O’Connor, director of Drugs, Alcohol and Tobacco at Public Health England, told HuffPost UK: “It is not helpful to talk about the effect of alcohol consumption on diabetes alone.
“Consuming alcohol contributes to a vast number of other serious diseases, including some cancers, heart disease and liver disease, so people should keep this in mind when thinking about how much they drink.”
According to Sarah Toule, head of health information at World Cancer Research Fund, 21,000 cancer cases could be prevented in the UK each year if nobody drank alcohol.
She added: “For cancer prevention, it is best to not drink at all. However, if you are going to drink, it is important to be alcohol savvy, such as drinking spritzers instead of glasses of wine, bottled beer instead of pints and having several alcohol-free days throughout the week.”
Dr Emily Burns, head of research communications at Diabetes UK, said Type 2 diabetes risk is complex, with several factors contributing to it such as family history, ethnic background, age and being overweight.
“While these findings are interesting, we wouldn’t recommend people see them as a green light to drink in excess of the existing NHS guidelines,” she said.
“Especially as the impact of regular alcohol consumption on the risk of Type 2 will be different from one person to the next.”
The UK Chief Medical Officers’ guideline for both men and women is that it is safest not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis.
Dr Burns added: “Type 2 diabetes is a serious condition, and around three in five cases can be prevented or delayed by eating healthily, moving more and losing weight if you’re overweight. If you’re worried about your risk of developing the condition, we’d advise you to speak to a healthcare professional.”