A small glass of red wine every day could keep adult diabetes under control, scientists claimed last night.

A new study found that the drink contains high concentrations of chemicals that help the body regulate levels of sugar in the blood.

Just a small glass of red contained as many of these active ingredients as a daily dose of an anti-diabetic drug, the researchers found.

Although the study didn’t look at the effects of wine on people, its authors believe moderate drinking as part of a calorie controlled diet could protect against type 2 diabetes.

However, their conclusions angered Diabetes UK who accused the researchers of making ‘astonishingly bold suggestions’ based on ‘limited research’.

The charity warned that wine was so high in calories it could lead to weight gain – outweighing any benefit.

Around 2.6million people suffer from type 2 diabetes in Britain. The disease occurs when the pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin – the hormone that regulates blood sugar – or when its insulin does not work properly.

High levels of sugar in the blood can cause tiredness, heart disease, strokes, blindness, nerve damage and kidney disease.

Past studies have shown that natural chemicals found grape skin and wine called polyphenols can help the body control glucose levels, and prevent potentially dangerous spikes or dips in blood sugar.

The new study compared the polyphenol content of 12 different wine varieties. The team, from the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences, Vienna, found that levels were higher in red wines.

The scientists then studied how these polyphenols interact with cells in the human body, focussing on a particular ‘receptor – or molecule that sits on the surface of cells – called PPAR-gamma – involved in the development of fat cells, energy storage and the regulation of blood sugar.

The authors showed that polyphenols in wine bind to the receptor and that a small glass of wine contains enough to rival the activity of the potent diabetes drug Avandia.

The researchers who report the findings in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal Food and Function believe moderate red wine consumption could have benefits for diabetics

‘You could derive a natural extract from grape skins for the treatment of diabetes,’ Professor Alois Jungbauer said.

‘Also, this is further scientific evidence that a small amount of wine really is beneficial for health.’

Previous research involving thousands of people has shown that moderate drinking of alcohol can reduce the risk of diabetes type 2, he said.

‘Moderate is the equivalent of a small glass each day for women, and two for men,’ he added. ‘Our big problem is to convey the message of a healthy lifestyle because too much wine will cause diabetes and obesity.

‘If you have wine then you must reduce your intake of calories from food by the same amount.’

But Dr Iain Frame, director of research at Diabetes UK was critical of Prof Jungbauer’s conclusions.

‘It is very difficult to see how this limited research will have any benefit to people with Type 2 diabetes. It is a basic study into the chemistry of red wine and has no clinical relevance at this stage,’ he said.

‘The researchers have made an astonishingly bold suggestion based on the results of their research suggesting that a very small glass of red wine may be beneficial to people with Type 2 diabetes. This assumption is fundamentally wrong based on the evidence presented from this research.

‘Previous studies have demonstrated potential health benefits from chemicals isolated from red wine. However the alcohol in wine is high in calories and can lead to weight gain, which can outweigh the benefits of these chemicals.’