Flushing Response Modifies the Association of Alcohol Consumption with Markers of Glucose Metabolism in Japanese Men and Women




Influences of alcohol use on glucose metabolism may depend on alcohol flushing response. We investigated the effect of alcohol flushing response on the associations between alcohol consumption and markers of glucose metabolism in Japanese men and women.


The subjects were 979 employees (885 men and 94 women), aged 18 to 69 years, of a manufacturing company in Japan. Flushing response and alcohol consumption were determined using a self-administered questionnaire. Homeostasis model assessment-insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) and homeostasis model assessment for β-cell function (HOMA-β) were computed using fasting plasma glucose and insulin. For each group of flushers and nonflushers, multiple regression analysis was used to estimate means of fasting plasma glucose, hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), and HOMAs for each category of alcohol consumption, with adjustments for potential confounders.


In flushers, alcohol consumption was associated with HbA1c levels in a U-shaped manner, with the lowest HbA1c levels being observed at an alcohol consumption level of 23.0 to <34.5 g ethanol/d (p for quadratic trend = 0.002). In nonflushers, alcohol consumption was linearly and inversely associated with HbA1c levels (p for linear trend = 0.001). Decreases in HbA1c were more evident among flushers compared with nonflushers at moderate alcohol consumption levels (p for interaction = 0.049). An increase of fasting glucose associated with highest alcohol consumption was observed in both flushers and nonflushers. A statistically significant decrease in HOMA-IR with increasing alcohol consumption was observed in flushers (p for trend = 0.007), whereas HOMA-IR levels slightly decreased at higher alcohol consumption in nonflushers. HOMA-β similarly decreased with increasing alcohol consumption in both flushers and nonflushers (both p for trend < 0.001).


The results suggest that the alcohol flushing response may improve glucose metabolism and insulin resistance at moderate alcohol use levels in apparently healthy Japanese adults.