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Eating with Diabetes: Alcoholic Beverages

How Alcohol Affects Your Blood Sugar

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Since you've been diagnosed with diabetes, you have hopefully started learning how various foods and beverages affect your blood sugar. But what about alcohol? How does it affect your blood sugar and how do you account for it when planning meals and celebrations?

First, remember this: Alcoholic beverages do affect your blood sugar. And beyond that, there are other considerations that a person with diabetes has to keep in mind when choosing whether or not—and how much—to drink. We recommend that you discuss your use of alcohol with your diabetes care team. After that, here are a few general recommendations.

Practice Moderation
It's true that diabetes puts you at a greater risk for heart disease, and that you should be taking proactive steps to protect your heart health. Though some published research has suggested that consuming alcohol may be good for your heart, the potential benefits are very small, and are certainly no reason to start drinking alcohol if it is not something you would normally do. Only drink alcohol when your diabetes is controlled (typically defined as an A1C level less than 7%).

Do NOT drink alcohol when you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant.

If you choose to drink alcohol, do so in moderation. Moderation is defined as no more than one drink per day for women or two drinks per day for men. One drink equals 1.5 oz of distilled spirits, 4 oz. dry wine, or 12 oz. beer.

Alcohol Guidelines for People with Diabetes
All foods and beverages affect your blood sugar differently, and alcohol is no exception—even though this particular beverage is classified as a drug. Alcohol is neither calorie-free nor carbohydrate-free, and it impacts your blood sugar and can also interact with the medications you take.

Several medications, including the diabetes drug Metformin, warn against alcohol consumption on their labels. Check your medicine cabinet and new prescriptions for these warnings. If you have questions about whether or not drinking alcohol is safe for you, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

Alcohol can interfere with weight control. It's high in calories, second only to fat in calories per gram (fat has 9 calories per gram; alcohol has 7). If you drink alcoholic beverages regularly, they can contribute a lot of calories to your diet, which can slow or stop weight loss, and promote weight gain. To limit the effect of alcohol on your weight, drink alcohol in moderation (defined above) or only on occasion.
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About The Author

Amy L. Poetker Amy L. Poetker
Amy Poetker is a licensed and registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator with a master's degree in dietetics. Amy, who has spent most of her career working in diabetes education, is dedicated to the treatment of that disease and the prevention of related complications. See all of Amy's articles.

Member Comments

  • Yes, the crystal light cocktail flavors do make a nice drink, but you still have to keep control. Easy to drink a few of these quickly. I put it in a martini glass which makes it really feel like a cocktail even without the vodka. - 11/17/2013 4:31:35 PM
    Why drink? There are better sources of antioxidants, and there are much better ways to relax. - 9/3/2013 8:51:17 AM
  • W - 5/2/2012 3:25:31 PM
  • I'm not a big drinker, but wanted to add that the Mojito flavored Crystal Light "Mocktails" is awesome. Never dawned on me to add a touch of alcohol to it, sometimes things can stare you right in the face huh? - 5/2/2012 1:44:49 PM
  • I forgot to add in moderation of course. My mother has diabetes and she drinks a small glass once per week and her numbers are fine. Definetly something to discuss with your health provider of course. - 5/2/2012 1:33:32 PM
  • I still believe in the power of a glass of red wine - 5/2/2012 1:31:31 PM
  • I live in Manitoba. Where do you buy Crystal Light Mocktails? I would like to give them a try. - 5/2/2012 12:08:23 PM
  • Yes, I just got my first Mocktail mix. We will see!

    I was under the impression that alcohol is processed by your liver into fat (well, acetyl CoA anyway), not glucose. This is kind of like how fructose is processed. Thus, actual alcohol should have very little affect on blood sugar even though it is a carbohydrate. That said, many alcoholic beverages are filled with carbohydrates that ARE processed into glucose. In Germany, they call beer, liquid bread! Also, excess alcohol being processed into fat leads to fatty liver, which is also a bad thing for diabetics! - 5/2/2012 11:28:17 AM
  • Thanks for the chart.

    And TAMMY8395's comments have prompted me to add Crystal Light's Mocktails to my shopping list!

    Slainte' - 5/2/2012 10:13:45 AM
  • GUSMOM61
    Crystal Light has a product called Mocktails that is very good. You can substitute the appropriate alcohol for a portion of the water. We have found that when we make the product at the recommended strength, the flavors are not quite strong enough to really represent the "real" beverage it is mocking. So, we only add enough water/alcohol combination to get the flavor we like. They have quite a variety to choose from and our favorites have been margarita (which really gets a real flavor if you add a little freshly squeezed lime), appletini, and a cranberry flavor that is great with vodka. Yum! - 3/28/2012 11:55:28 AM

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