CHICAGO (AP) _ Moderate drinking is heart-healthy for diabetics in the same way it is for other people, researchers reported today, easing concerns that alcohol may throw off diabetics' blood-sugar balance.

In the 12-year study, diabetics who had one or two drinks daily were up to 80 percent less likely to die of heart disease than diabetics who did not drink, said researchers led by Dr. Charles Valmadrid of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Medical School.

The study is in today's Journal of the American Medical Association.

Previous studies have found that among nondiabetics, moderate drinking reduces the risk of heart disease by 20 percent to 60 percent.

However, the benefits of alcohol consumption may be far outweighed by such risks as cancer and liver disease, depression, unintentional injuries and social discord, wrote Drs. Michael Criqui and Beatrice Golomb of the University of California-San Diego in La Jolla in an editorial accompanying the study.

Dr. Bruce Zimmerman, president of the American Diabetes Association and an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., said the new findings support the association's position that precautions regarding alcohol use that apply to the general public also apply to diabetics.

Alcohol hinders the liver's ability to deliver sugar to the bloodstream, so doctors have been concerned that drinking might throw off diabetics' blood sugar-insulin balance. But moderate drinking appears to improve blood-sugar balance by reducing insulin resistance, a problem in adult-onset diabetics, whose bodies make insulin but don't use it properly.

All 983 subjects in the study had adult-onset diabetes, or Type 2, which accounts for 90 percent of cases. The researchers studied older diabetics because alcohol's heart benefits in previous studies have been found only in people over 40.