Alcohol and diabetes generally don’t go hand in hand. But what about red wine?

Its health benefits have been touted for almost as long as we’ve been drinking it. Now you may have another reason to enjoy your evening glass of wine.

According to a study published this week in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, red wine may actually prove to be a treatment for diabetes.

Researchers reviewed eleven studies including 388 participants looking at the impact of resveratrol – an antioxidant found in grapes and red wine – on blood sugar and insulin sensitivity in patients with and without diabetes.

They found that resveratrol statistically improved both blood sugar and insulin sensitivity in patients with diabetes, but had no impact in patients without diabetes. In effect, resveratrol was able to reduce blood sugar without the adverse effect of pushing blood sugars below healthy levels. Few prescription medications are so selective – extremely low blood sugar is a well-known complication of diabetes treatment, especially in the elderly.

Researchers have known for decades that people who enjoy red wine are less likely to suffer heart disease or stroke, and that people who drink alcohol in moderation tend to live longer than teetotalers. Part of this effect may be due to resveratrol, which mimics the positive effects of calorie restriction on the body and has been shown to extend the life of certain laboratory animals (but, alas, not humans – yet).

Resveratrol is found in the skin of red grapes, and is highly concentrated in red (but not white) wines. It is also available as a dietary supplement for those who want to avoid looking silly after their second or third “dose” of resveratrol on a Thursday evening. Grape juice, interestingly, does not have any appreciable amounts of resveratrol or antioxidants.

Other dietary supplements may improve diabetes – including fiber, chromium, fenugreek, and green tea – but none have the added benefit of easing the stress of a long day at the office. For those patients with diabetes who are already working hard on diet, exercise, and weight loss, a relaxing glass of cabernet may be just what the doctor ordered.

For more on the benefits of red wine and other fun ways to stay healthy and off prescription medications, contact Dr. David Clayton at 858 597-9228.