Aims/hypothesis: This systematic review examines the relationship between alcohol consumption and long-term complications of type 2 diabetes. Meta-analyses could only be performed for total mortality, mortality from CHD, and CHD incidence, because the availability of articles on other complications was too limited. Materials and methods: A PubMed search through to September 2005 was performed and the reference lists of relevant articles examined. Among the relevant articles there were six cohort studies reporting on the risk of total mortality and/or fatal and/or incident CHD in alcohol non-consumers and in at least two groups of alcohol consumers. Results: Statistical pooling showed lower risks in alcohol consumers than in non-consumers (the reference category). The relative risk (RR) of total mortality was 0.64 (95% CI 0.49-0.82) in the <6 g/day category. In the higher alcohol consumption categories (6 to <18, and ≥18 g/day), the RRs of total mortality were not significant. Risks of fatal and total CHD were significantly lower in all three categories of alcohol consumers (<6, 6 to <18 and ≥18 g/day) than in non-consumers, with RRs ranging from 0.34 to 0.75. Conclusions/interpretation: This meta-analysis shows that, as with findings in the general population, moderate alcohol consumption is associated with a lower risk of mortality and CHD in type 2 diabetic populations. © Springer-Verlag 2006.