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Eating with Diabetes: Alcoholic Beverages

How Alcohol Affects Your Blood Sugar

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.

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