“Chocolate and red wine 'can beat diabetes’," is the misleading and potentially harmful headline on the Sky News website. The study it reports on was actually looking at specific compounds found in wine and chocolate…
“Chocolate and red wine 'can beat diabetes’," is the misleading and potentially harmful headline on the Sky News website. The study it reports on was actually looking at specific compounds found in wine and chocolate, called flavonoids.
The study found that women with a flavonoid-rich diet appeared to have less biological signs they were heading for type 2 diabetes – specifically lower insulin resistance and lower insulin levels – compared to women consuming lower levels of flavonoids.
However, flavonoids are not just found in wine and chocolate, but are also found in plants, herbs, berries and tea.
The study was a cross sectional design meaning it cannot prove flavonoids reduce the risk of developing diabetes. It could be the case that women with a flavonoid rich-diet tended adopt healthier lifestyle choices, such as exercising regularly, and it was this that was contributing to the lower insulin resistance. Only a well-conducted, double-blinded randomised control trial could prove direct cause and effect.
Also, the study relied on signs of insulin resistance, rather than a diagnosis of diabetes itself. As not all women with these signs would actually develop diabetes in their lifetime, this weakens the reliability of the results.
Teasing apart the effect of one type of chemical on disease risk, when the disease risk can be influenced by a large range of other dietary and non-dietary factors is difficult.
This study does not give the green light to drink red wine above the recommended levels or to consume chocolate often – any potential benefits of diabetes prevention are likely to be overshadowed by the already known risks of excessive sugar, fat and alcohol consumption, including liver disease, cardiovascular disease, stroke and cancer.
Does the media have a drink problem?
It does seem that if there is one thing health news editors are addicted to it’s the “red wine is good for you” story.
In recent years we’ve had:
And for those who like a bit of fizz:
Maybe someone needs to stage an intervention?
For an evidence-based look at the benefits and risks of alcohol, read the Behind the Headlines special report on alcohol; “What’s your poison?”