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Alcohol Intake May Be Key to Long-term Weight Loss for People with Diabetes

Research shows that losing weight can help prevent or delay the onset of diabetes. While best practice for weight loss often includes decreasing or eliminating calories from alcohol, few studies examine whether people who undergo weight loss treatment report changes in alcohol intake and whether alcohol influences their weight loss.

A new study from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing (Penn Nursing) suggests that alcohol consumption may attenuate long-term weight loss in adults with Type 2 diabetes.

In the study, close to 5,000 people who were overweight and had diabetes were followed for four years. One group participated in Intensive Lifestyle Intervention (ILI) and the other in a control group consisting of diabetes support and education. Data showed that participants in the ILI group who abstained from alcohol consumption over the four-year period lost more weight than those who drank any amount during the intervention. Results from the study also showed that heavy drinkers in the ILI group were less likely to have clinically significant weight loss over the four years.

“This study indicates that while alcohol consumption is not associated with short‐term weight loss during a lifestyle intervention, it is associated with worse long‐term weight loss in participants with overweight or obesity and Type 2 diabetes,” says lead investigator Ariana M. Chao, PhD, CRNP, Assistant Professor of Nursing in the Department of Biobehavioral Health Sciences. “Patients with Type 2 diabetes who are trying to lose weight should be encouraged to limit alcohol consumption.”

The study “Alcohol Intake and Weight Loss During Intensive Lifestyle Intervention for Adults with Overweight or Obesity and Diabetes,” has been published in the journal Obesity. Co-authors of the article include Thomas A. Wadden, PhD, Jena Shaw Tronieri, PhD, and Robert I. Berkowitz, MD, all of the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.

This study was supported by: the National Institute of Nursing Research of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) under award number K23NR017209. This study is supported by the Department of Health and Human Services through the following cooperative agreements from the NIH: DK57136, DK57149, DK56990, DK57177, DK57171, DK57151, DK57182, DK57131, DK57002, DK57078, DK57154, DK57178, DK57219, DK57008, DK57135, and DK56992. The following federal agencies have contributed support: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; National Institute of Nursing Research; National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities; Office of Research on Women’s Health; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and Department of Veterans Affairs. This research was supported in part by the Intramural Research Program of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. The Indian Health Service (IHS) provided personnel, medical oversight, and use of facilities. Additional support was received from Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions Bayview General Clinical Research Center (M01RR02719); Massachusetts General Hospital Mallinckrodt General Clinical Research Center and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology General Clinical Research Center (M01RR01066); University of Colorado Health Sciences Center General Clinical Research Center (M01RR00051) and Clinical Nutrition Research Unit (P30 DK48520); University of Tennessee at Memphis General Clinical Research Center (M01RR0021140); University of Pittsburgh General Clinical Research Center (M01RR000056), the Clinical Translational Research Center (CTRC) funded by the Clinical & Translational Science Award (UL1 RR 024153) and NIH grant (DK 046204); and Frederic C. Bartter General Clinical Research Center (M01RR01346).