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Diabetes & Alcohol UMass Diabetes Center of Excellence

In people with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes, single episodes of alcohol consumption (i.e., acute alcohol consumption) generally do not lead to clinically significant changes in blood sugar levels. This potentially beneficial effect was observed in both men and women, regardless of age. When it comes to blood sugar control, research shows a moderate amount of alcohol has minimal short- or long-term effects on blood sugar levels in people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. However, drinking more than three drinks per day over time has been shown to make glucose control a challenge.

“These data suggest that it’s not the alcohol with meals but other ingredients in wine, perhaps antioxidants, that may be the factor in potentially reducing new-onset type 2 diabetes. When about a drink, it’s a liquid that contains ethanol, which acts as a depressant drug. It is produced by the fermentation of fruits, grains, or other sugar sources. Consumption of alcoholic drinks plays a major role in numerous cultures. Alcohol affects the way kidneys regulate fluid and electrolytes in the body.


It also hides in processed foods under many names, such as corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, sucrose, dextrose, and more. When consumed, whether with coffee, in desserts, or any other food item, refined sugar causes a rapid rise in blood sugar levels. Sometimes, even honey and fruit juices can have high levels of refined sugar. It is important to always check the food label for the nutritional content, including sugar levels.

Can diabetics drink beer and alcohol?

Moderate alcohol consumption (no more than one to two drinks per day) is perfectly safe for most people with diabetes.

Alcohol can also affect insulin production for those taking medications. Diabetic eye disease (i.e., retinopathy) is another troublesome tissue complication of diabetes and one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States today. Good blood sugar and blood pressure control as well as regular eye examinations are essential for the prevention of retinopathy. Heavy alcohol consumption may increase a person’s risk for developing this disease. Interestingly, the risk of retinopathy was independent of the men’s ability to control their blood sugar, suggesting that alcohol may directly damage the eyes or related structures. Different types of alcohol will affect blood sugar differently; for example, beer and sugary cocktails are carb-heavy, so they temporarily increase blood glucose.

So, Is It OK To Drink?

This will depend on many things, such as your age, other health conditions, and the number and type of medicines you take. Your provider or dietitian can also tell you how to fit alcohol into your diet. People with diabetes can carry glucose tabs in case of an emergency, and they should check their blood sugar levels regularly. They should also remember that some diabetes medications may not work if they consume too much alcohol. People with diabetes who plan on drinking alcohol should check their blood sugar levels before and up to 24 hours after drinking. They should also check these levels at bedtime to ensure that they are stable before sleeping.

If you believe your alcohol consumption is not problematic, slowly sipping your drink will help your body process the alcohol better and will help to prevent blood sugar levels from dropping too low. Alcohol use disorders or heavy alcohol consumption can compromise the kidney’s function. Aside from increased blood sugar levels, someone that is intoxicated with alcohol also has high levels of ketones in their blood which can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). They are likely to develop kidney and liver diseases as their ability to regulate the body’s fluids is impaired.

When not to drink

“The effects of dehydration, moderate alc[…] cognitive functions.” Alcohol, May 2013. If you or a loved one are Diabetic and are having trouble drinking in moderation or cutting back on drinking, help is available. Another possibility that could be why mental health disorders and substance abuse disorders happen simultaneously is the presence of past trauma or stress in your life. When someone experiences forms of trauma in their life, they either decide to address it head-on and heal from it or run from it.

diabetes and alcohol

In a recent study, researchers at Southeast University in Nanjing, China found that people who had a little alcohol every day had lower levels of a type of blood fat called triglycerides. Researchers also found lower levels of insulin and improved insulin resistance in people who drank light to moderate amounts of alcohol. Alcohol can cause your blood glucose levels to fall and rise depending on how much you have consumed.

The Link between Type 2 Diabetes and Alcohol

Some diabetes pills such as Meglitinides and Sulfonylureas also lower blood glucose levels by stimulating the pancreas to make more insulin. Combining the lowering of blood sugar levels by medication and alcohol has a significant chance of leading to hypoglycemia, otherwise known as an insulin shock, an absolute medical emergency. Each alcoholic beverage takes between 1 and 1.5 hours to finish processing in the liver.

diabetes and alcohol

We would always advise you wear your medical alert piece of jewelry that ensure individuals know you have diabetes. In emergencies, glucagon may not be practical, so ensure the friends and family you are with tell the 911 medics. It is also important to mention that due to the growing popularity of craft can diabetics get drunk beers, the alcohol content of some beers is now higher than 5%. Beverages such as beer and wine can have an alcohol content of 2–20%. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one standard drink in the United States is equal to 14 grams (g) (0.6 ounces [oz]) of pure alcohol.

Gluconeogenesis, which also occurs primarily in the liver, involves the formation of new glucose molecules from alanine and glycerol. Alanine is generated during the breakdown of proteins in the muscles, whereas glycerol is formed during the metabolism of certain fat molecules (i.e., triglycerides). Alcohol metabolism in the liver, however, actually shuts down the process of gluconeogenesis and thus the second line of defense against hypoglycemia. Consequently, both of the body’s mechanisms to sustain blood sugar levels are inactivated in people who consume alcohol but do not eat, resulting in profound hypoglycemia. In addition, insulin inhibits the production of more sugar molecules (i.e., gluconeogenesis) in the liver.

Diabetes is a condition in which your body has trouble processing food the way it should to use it as energy. When we digest food, it breaks down into sugar, or glucose, that our cells can use for energy. A small organ called the pancreas is responsible for making insulin, a hormone that gets glucose into our body’s cells. If you do choose to drink with diabetes, there are a few factors to keep in mind. Making healthier choices overall can lead to the benefits of drinking — without the potential side effects. There are plenty of drinking risks for diabetics, especially if you drink too much.

Wine in chillers

People with blood sugar issues should avoid consuming mixed drinks and cocktails. These drinks are often full of sugar and empty calories and may increase blood sugar levels. After you drink alcohol, your blood sugar levels can drop up to 24 hours later. Check your blood sugar before and while you’re drinking and then again before you go to bed.

What 3 drinks should diabetics avoid?

  • Regular soda. Soda takes the top spot on the list of drinks to avoid.
  • Energy drinks. Energy drinks can be high in both caffeine and carbohydrates.
  • Sweetened or unsweetened fruit juices.