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Do you have diabetes? Know the benefits and side-effects of alcohol

Some research has indicated that individuals with diabetes who drink in moderation could see a small improvement in insulin sensitivity. © Shutterstock

Alcohol and diabetes have a very close relationship. While excessive consumption is bad, a drink or two may actually offer you some benefits.

Written by Editorial Team |Published : December 21, 2019 5:32 PM IST

According to a study at Mount Sinai Medical Center, binge drinking causes insulin resistance, which increases the risk of Type 2 diabetes, according to the results of an animal study. The authors further discovered that alcohol disrupts insulin-receptor signalling by causing inflammation in the hypothalamus area of the brain. Science Translational Medicine published this study. Another study at Zhongda Hospital and School of Medicine, Southeast University, Nanjing, China, says that moderate alcohol consumption for people with type 2 diabetes may need to be reviewed, since low-to-moderate consumption could have a positive effect on blood glucose and fat metabolism. Diabetologia published this study. Confused? We don't blame you. One study says alcohol may be beneficial and the other says it is bad.

People with diabetes (type 1 and type 2) often wonder about the consequences of alcohol consumption. Alcohol can not only affect your blood sugar, it also comes packed with empty calories that can affect your weight. Just because you have diabetes doesn't mean that alcohol is completely off limits. Certain alcohols can be included in your diet and might even come with a few health benefits when enjoyed in moderation.


Moderate consumption of alcohol can come with a few health benefits.

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Improves Good Cholesterol (HDL)

Alcohol can increase your HDL levels or "good" cholesterol. Your body needs ths to remove "bad" cholesterol or LDL. A healthy level of HDL in the body reduces the risk of developing certain heart diseases while low levels of HDL do the opposite. It's important, however, that individuals with diabetes be mindful of their consumption to avoid unnecessary weight gain.

Improves Insulin Sensitivity

Some research has indicated that individuals with diabetes who drink in moderation could see a small improvement in insulin sensitivity. Insulin sensitivity is a measure of how sensitive the body is to insulin. When you are insulin sensitive, your body will need a smaller amount of insulin to lower blood glucose compared to an individual who is insulin resistant.

Reduces Risk of Heart Disease

Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health found that women with type 2 diabetes with moderate alcohol consumption were slightly healthier. They also had a lower risk of developing heart disease than those who did not consume alcohol. However, alcohol, if consumed, should only be done in moderation and, in this case, no more than 1 drink a day for women.


Alcohol does come with negative effects on your body, especially on blood sugar levels.

Causes Hypoglycemia

Do not drink alcohol on an empty stomach, especially if you have low blood glucose. The alcohol will only cause an increase in low blood glucose, which leads to hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia occurs when your blood glucose levels drop. Alcohol can cause hypoglycemia right after alcohol consumption and can last for up to 24 hours. It is imperative that you check your blood sugar levels before drinking, during drinking, before you go to bed, and for the next 24 hours. Have a healthy dinner or a snack that contains carbohydrates if you are planning on consuming alcohol.

Interacts with Medication

People with diabetes are on different types of medications to regulate their insulin and blood glucose. Alcohol consumption affects our blood sugar levels by either elevating them or lowering them. This could be an issue when alcohol and medication clash and cause blood sugar levels to drop, leaving the individual with hypoglycemia or in insulin shock. You must take patients in these circumstances to the hospital immediately.

Affects the Liver

Your liver is the essential part of the body that helps remove toxins and wastes along with keeping blood sugar levels in check. When alcohol is consumed, the liver has to work towards removing alcohol from the blood and move away from working to regulating glucose levels. This becomes an issue when blood glucose is already on the lower side and could lead to hypoglycemia.


The trick to maintaining a healthy balance between diabetes and alcohol consumption is moderation.


Do not drink on an empty stomach

Limit yourself

Do not drink more than 1 glass per day if you are a woman, and 2 glasses per day if you are a man

Choose a calorie-free drink and avoid sugary sodas and juices

Check your blood sugar regularly while you are out drinking

Make sure your blood sugar is at a regular, safe level before you go to bed after a night out

Diabetes can be controlled or even reversed (type 2) if you strive to maintain a healthy lifestyle that includes a well-balanced diet and regular exercise.

If you have never been fond of drinking, or do not drink at all, now is not the time to start. Make an appointment with your doctor for his or her advice on whether you can consume alcohol and which types are safe to have in moderation.

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