Thursday, January 24, 2008

How Does Alcohol Lower Blood Sugar?

Diabetes is not only a risk factor of heart disease but also a serious medical disorder. Diabetics who do not have their blood sugar levels managed properly will lead them to many other complications and in some serious situations, blindness, amputation and even death can just happen to them.

In the past, drinking alcohol beverages has been known to lower blood sugar levels in diabetics. And now, results of a new study on animal, conducted by a group of researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, revealed the mechanisms involved. The findings that were published in the journal Endocrinology show that alcohol produces a massive redistribution of blood flow within the pancreas.

According to what was observed in the study, alcohol seems to send more blood to a region of the pancreas called the islets. The islets contain cells whose main function is to produce insulin, the key hormone that lowers blood sugar levels in the body.

Using various techniques, the researchers showed that pancreatic islet blood flow is increased by about 4 folds in rats after an injection of ethanol. Overall blood flow to pancreas, by contrast, was not affected. The alcohol injection also led to increased insulin secretion, resulting in low glucose levels.

Further study also showed that alcohol induced pancreatic blood flow changes by affecting a chemical called nitric oxide and the vagus nerve, a nerve that is responsible for sending many important signals in the body.

Based on the results obtained from the study, the researchers recommend doctors to advise their diabetic patients, especially those with liver problems, to be very careful with alcohol, if they are taking drugs to lower blood glucose, since these drugs may increase the effects of alcohol.

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