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Alcohol and diabetes

Alcohol is often part and parcel of celebrating, but, when you’re enjoying yourself, drinking a little more mulled wine than you intended is where a lot of people fall down. (literally)

Regardless of whether you have diabetes or not, guidelines recommend that men and women should not regularly consume more than 14 units a week and if you do have as much as 14 units, spread this over three days or more.

If you are drinking, limit drinks with a high sugar content such as liquors, cocktails made with fruit juice and sweet wines. Some festive drinks are higher in saturated fat too, like cream liquors.

And, remember if you treat your diabetes with insulin and certain type 2 diabetes medications that can cause hypos, be aware that drinking alcohol can make hypos more likely.

Does alcohol cause diabetes?

There are a lot of risk factors when it comes to type 2 diabetes that are come genetic and lifestyle based.

Excess alcohol intake is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, but the relationship between alcohol and risk of type 2 diabetes can be a little bit complicated and staying within government guidelines is the safest way to drink alcohol.

Alcohol can also contain a lot of calories, which can lead to putting on weight.

Alcohol and your weight

Depending on what you like to drink, there can be a lot of calories in alcohol. So if you’re trying to lose weight, you may want to drink less.

Types of drinks

If you're going to drink, it's good to be aware of all the facts so you can choose the types of drinks best for you:

  • Avoid low-sugar beers and cider – sometimes called diabetic drinks. They might have less sugar, but there's more alcohol in them.
  • Avoid low-alcohol wines – these often have more sugar than normal ones. If you do choose these, just stick to a glass or two. Try to limit drinks with a lot of sugar, such as sweet sherries, sweet wines and liqueurs.
  • Have diet or sugar-free mixers with any spirits – if a friend gets one for you, make it clear what you need.
  • Some drinks like beers, ales and ciders contain carbs and will increase your blood sugar levels initially. Spirits, dry wines and Prosecco not so much, so these may be a better bet if you are concerned about the carbs in alcohol.

Alcohol and carbohydrates

If you’re carb counting, drinking isn't going to make it an easy task. A lot of alcoholic drinks contain a lot of carbohydrates and sugar which can lead to you having a massive spike in your blood sugar which starts the vicious cycle of hypos.

How will alcohol affect my blood sugar control?

Depending on what you drink, will depend on how much sugar and carbs are in your drink which will determine how your blood sugar will be affected. If you have more than a single drink, most alcoholic drinks will tend to initially raise your blood sugar.

Alcohol stops your liver from turning proteins into glucose which means you’re at a greater risk of hypoglycaemia once your blood sugars start to come down.

If you have a number of these drinks, you can expect to see a rise in blood sugar followed by a steady drop a number of hours later, often whilst asleep.

Each person will have a slightly different reaction to alcoholic drinks so it’s well worth using blood tests to check how your body responds to it.