Drinking heavily at least once a month raised the chances of having higher blood sugar levels by middle age a major risk factor for diabetes.
The researchers defined a “binge” as drinking more than six units the equivalent of four small glasses of wine or four bottles of beer in a evening. Women who did this once a month in their teens had blood sugar levels in their 40s that were on average 7 per cent higher than those who did not.
The findings are particularly alarming as more girls and young women now admit to binge drinking than men, despite a drop in overall rates of alcohol consumption in the UK. Lead author Dr Karina Nygren, of Umea University in Sweden, said: “Because higher blood glucose is a risk factor for the development of type 2 diabetes, our data suggests informing people about the risk of high alcohol consumption at a young age could have positive health impacts down the line.”
Total alcohol consumption and binge drinking throughout the period was strongly associated with higher blood glucose levels among women. This was irrespective of body mass index, blood pressure and smoking when they reached middle age.
The study, published in the journal BMC Public Health, found only BMI and high blood pressure were linked with increased blood glucose levels in men.
But despite alcohol being a factor in blood sugar only in women, men still had higher glucose levels in general and drank nearly three times as much. Dr Nygren said: “Although there are some biological explanations behind why alcohol can directly lead to increased levels of glucose in the blood, the difference between men and women in our study is more difficult to explain.”
The researchers tracked 897 Swedish women from 1981, asking about alcohol consumption at the ages of 16, 18, 21, 30 and 43 at which point a blood sample was taken from each to assess their glucose levels. Previous studies have shown alcohol can increase insulin resistance in humans which in turn leads to the accumulation of glucose in the blood.
Research in rats has also shown binge drinking alters the animals’ metabolism in a way that affects production of insulin.
Earlier this year a study by the Office for National Statistics among 16 to 24-year-olds in the UK found girls and women were more likely to binge drink regularly than men.
Some 40.5 percent of young women admitted to having done so in the past week, up 3 percent on last year.
Only 34.4 percent of men admitted to doing the same, a 13 percent drop on last year.
The NHS says binge drinking is commonly defined as consuming more than eight units of alcohol in a single session for men and more than six units for women.
Nearly four million Britons have type 2 diabetes, which is usually associated with being overweight, a poor diet and lack of exercise. Another 12million are at risk of developing the disease.