What is recommended alcohol consumption for someone with diabetes?

If your blood glucose levels are on target, it is unlikely that an occasional alcoholic drink at mealtime will harm you. In fact, some studies have shown that light to moderate alcohol intake is associated with reduced risk of death from coronary heart disease for people with type 2 diabetes.

The key is to drink moderately. Moderate drinking is defined as no more than one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men. One drink is 12 ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits (liquor). If you do not tolerate alcohol well or have had problems with it in the past, however, you should avoid drinking.

Tips for Drinking Alcohol
  • Alcohol contains calories, almost as many per gram as fat. If weight loss is one of your goals, then you need to think about the extra calories from alcohol. Generally, alcohol is substituted for fat calories, with one drink equal to 2 fat exchanges (about 90 calories).
  • Alcohol can affect your blood glucose, most often causing very low blood glucose when consumed on an empty stomach. If you use certain medications or insulin, drink alcohol with food to prevent hypoglycemia.
  • The signs of hypoglycemia (no matter what the cause) are very similar to the signs of inebriation. There is the risk that people will think you are intoxicated if they see your behavior suddenly change. They may not consider the possibility that you have low blood glucose and need help quickly.
  • Some people have hypoglycemia unawareness, a lack of symptoms of low blood glucose. Drinking alcohol increases their risk for hypoglycemia.
  • Some medications, including some diabetes medications, require limits on alcohol use.
  • If you have health problems, such as pancreatitis, high triglyceride levels, gastric problems, neuropathy (nerve damage), kidney disease, or certain types of heart disease, you may be advised to abstain from alcohol.
  • Not drinking and driving is sound advice for everyone. But because of the added risk for hypoglycemia from alcohol, it is especially true for people with diabetes.
  • Alcohol can affect your thought processes and inhibitions. It’s easy to overeat when you are drinking. In addition, you need to be able to think clearly enough to monitor your blood glucose levels and to know what to do should they drop too low. If you are drinking, make sure to tell a friend what to do in the event of low blood glucose. Your friend should be prepared to take action, even if you are not able to cooperate.
If you have diabetes, check with your doctor to find out what levels of alcohol consumption are safe specifically for you. In terms of general guidelines, if you choose to drink alcohol, limit it to one drink for women and two drinks for men per day. (One drink is a 12-ounce beer, a 4-ounce glass of wine, or 1.5 ounces of distilled alcohol.) Keep in mind that alcohol has a lot of calories. In addition, it tends to raise blood levels of triglycerides.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.