Researchers recently found that patients who consume alcohol have a lower risk of developing diabetic retinopathy (DR) compared with non-drinkers.

This longitudinal study included 656 participants with diabetes. Their mean age was 58.8 years, and 54.4% were male. A team evaluated retinal photographs at baseline and during follow-up examinations. They defined incident DR as no DR at baseline and at least minimal non-proliferative DR at follow-up. As for DR progression, they defined it as at least a one-step worsening in retinopathy at follow-up from minimal or worse status at baseline, excluding those with proliferative DR.

At follow-up, the investigators reported that 16% of participants developed DR, and 30.8% had DR progression. They noted that 12.7% of patients with incident DR and 19.1% of those with progressive DR reported consuming alcohol. They added that patients who consumed alcohol had a reduced odds of incident DR compared with those who did not (0.13 to 0.98). Even those who reported infrequent consumption of alcohol showed some protection from the disease (0.04 to 0.69). They did not, however, observe an association between alcohol consumption and DR progression.

Gupta P, Fenwick EK, Sabanaayagam C, et al. Association of alcohol intake with incidence and progression of diabetic retinopathy. Br J Ophthalmol. May 23, 2020. [Epub ahead of print].