Alcohol and Diabetes
The health risks of drinking alcohol when you’re diabetic
What is Diabetes?
Unlike in healthy people, people with Diabetes cannot regulate the amount of sugar (glucose) in their blood.
In a healthy person several hormones regulate the blood glucose level. One of these is insulin. Insulin is produced by the pancreas and allows glucose to move from the blood into liver, muscle and fat cells, where it is used for fuel. In Diabetes, glucose cannot move from the blood into cells and so it stays and accumulates.
There are two types of diabetes. In Type 1 Diabetes, people do not produce enough insulin to regulate their blood glucose level. With Type 2 Diabetes, people cannot use insulin properly.
Alcohol and Diabetes
There is evidence that suggests that healthy adults who drink a light to moderate amount of alcohol may reduce their risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes, but drinking a heavy or excessive amount of alcohol may increase their risk.
If you are a diabetic it is better to drink alcohol with a carbohydrate food or a meal. Drinking alcohol without a meal can cause your blood sugar level to fall unexpectedly, especially if you take insulin or medication for Diabetes.
In addition, if you drink more than a light to moderate amount of alcohol, the alcohol can react with many of the prescribed diabetic medications and worsen the side effects of Diabetes, such as increasing your blood pressure. Therefore, you should only drink alcohol at or below the National Health and Medical Research Council’s recommendations of a maximum of two 10gm standard alcoholic drinks per day.
Diabetics who regularly drink a light to moderate amount of alcohol with a meal may reduce their risk of developing cardiovascular disease. However, drinking a heavy or excessive amount of alcohol will worsen the effects of Diabetes, significantly increasing the fasting blood concentration of fats and increasing the risk of damage to the nerves and eyes.
Certain alcoholic beverages contain sugar. If you are a diabetic, you should only drink low alcohol (‘lite’) and low sugar alcoholic beverages and when mixing drinks use a no or low calorie (‘diet’) mixer such as diet cola, diet ginger ale, diet lemonade, diet soda or diet tonic water. High alcohol and high sugar liqueurs and fortified wines are not recommended for people with Diabetics.
Diabetes is a major disease in Australia with a growing number of people of all ages suffering from it.
- About 700,000 Australians (3.6 per cent of the population) had been diagnosed with diabetes by 2004/05 and this figure is growing.
- Diabetes is the sixth highest cause of death by disease in Australia.
- People with diabetes are almost three (3) times more likely to have high blood pressure, be overweight, or have elevated blood fats such as cholesterol and triglycerides.
- People with diabetes are two to three times more likely to have cardiovascular disease.