Can you drink alcohol if you have diabetes?

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You have diabetes, and you wonder whether it was ok for you to drink that glass of wine at the dinner party the other night or whether you should have taken the club soda instead. Even if it is ok to have a drink every now and then, you may wonder if alcohol will make it be harder for you to control your blood glucose levels.

Here is your chance to weigh the pros and cons and make an informed decision.

 

The Canadian Diabetes Association recommends that adults with diabetes who wish to drink alcohol should drink in moderation (one drink per day or less for women and two drinks per day or less for men). One alcoholic beverage is considered to be a 12 ounce beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits. 1

Does alcohol affect your blood glucose levels?

Drinking a moderate amount of alcohol (as described above) has not been shown to have a detrimental effect on blood glucose in the short- or long-term.2-6 Some studies have even suggested that moderate alcohol consumption leads to an improvement in the control of glucose levels.4 Moderate alcohol may also decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality in people with diabetes.7-9

Despite these benefits, drinking moderate amounts of alcohol can still place you at risk for delayed hypoglycemia (low blood glucose), especially if you take insulin or medications that increase insulin secretion.10 Furthermore, more than 3 drinks per day, which is considered “excessive” alcohol intake, may cause hyperglycemia (increased blood glucose levels). 11

Does alcohol have other effects? 12

Alcohol:

  • May interfere with the effectiveness of your oral diabetes medications or insulin
  • May increase triglyceride levels
  • May increase blood pressure
  • Can cause flushing, nausea, a rapid heart rate and slurred speech
  • May make weight loss harder because of the high calorie content of certain drinks

What are the Do’s if I decide to drink alcohol? 12

  • Drink alcohol with food to decrease the risk of night time hypoglycemia
  • Drink slowly
  • Avoid sugary mixed drinks
  • Avoid binge drinking
  • Mix liquor with water, club soda or diet soft drinks
  • Always wear a medical alert bracelet stating that you have diabetes
  • Know the symptoms of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and have an updated glucagon kit or fast-acting sources of sugar like glucose tablets or orange juice handy
  • Have a reliable and easy to read glucose meter, such as the OneTouch Verio Flex® meter, to check your blood glucose level after drinking 

 

 

References

1.         CPG, Dworatzek PD, Arcudi K, Gougeon R, et al. Canadian Diabetes Association 2013 Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Prevention and Management of Diabetes in Canada: nutrition therapy. Can J Diabetes 2013;37(suppl 1):S45-S55..Last accessed January 20th, 2018

2.         Mackenzie T, Brooks B, O'Connor G. Beverage intake, diabetes, and glucose control of adults in America. Ann Epidemiol. 2006;16(9):688-691. Last accessed January 10th, 2018

3.         Kerr D, Cheyne E, Thomas P, Sherwin R. Influence of acute alcohol ingestion on the hormonal responses to modest hypoglycaemia in patients with Type 1 diabetes. Diabet Med. 2007;24(3):312-316. Last accessed January 10th, 2018

4.         Shai I, Wainstein J, Harman-Boehm I, et al. Glycemic effects of moderate alcohol intake among patients with type 2 diabetes: a multicenter, randomized, clinical intervention trial. Diabetes Care. 2007;30(12):3011-3016. Last accessed January 10th, 2018

5.         Ahmed AT, Karter AJ, Warton EM, Doan JU, Weisner CM. The relationship between alcohol consumption and glycemic control among patients with diabetes: the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Diabetes Registry. J Gen Intern Med. 2008;23(3):275-282. Last accessed January 10th, 2018

6.         Bantle AE, Thomas W, Bantle JP. Metabolic effects of alcohol in the form of wine in persons with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Metabolism. 2008;57(2):241-245. Last accessed January 10th, 2018

7.         Tanasescu M, Hu FB, Willett WC, Stampfer MJ, Rimm EB. Alcohol consumption and risk of coronary heart disease among men with type 2 diabetes mellitus. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2001;38(7):1836-1842. Last accessed January 10th, 2018

8.         Beulens JW, Algra A, Soedamah-Muthu SS, et al. Alcohol consumption and risk of recurrent cardiovascular events and mortality in patients with clinically manifest vascular disease and diabetes mellitus: the Second Manifestations of ARTerial (SMART) disease study. Atherosclerosis. 2010;212(1):281-286. Last accessed January 10th, 2018

9.         Koppes LL, Dekker JM, Hendriks HF, Bouter LM, Heine RJ. Meta-analysis of the relationship between alcohol consumption and coronary heart disease and mortality in type 2 diabetic patients. Diabetologia. 2006;49(4):648-652. Last accessed January 10th, 2018

10.       Richardson T, Weiss M, Thomas P, Kerr D. Day after the night before: influence of evening alcohol on risk of hypoglycemia in patients with type 1 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2005;28(7):1801-1802. Last accessed January 10th, 2018

11.       Howard AA, Arnsten JH, Gourevitch MN. Effect of alcohol consumption on diabetes mellitus: a systematic review. Ann Intern Med. 2004;140(3):211-219. Last accessed January 10th, 2018

12.       https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/guide/drinking-alcohol. Last accessed January 10th, 2018

13.       Mukherjee RA, Hollins S, Turk J. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder: an overview. J R Soc Med. 2006;99(6):298-302. Last accessed January 10th, 2018

 

 

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