About Diabetes and Alcohol
So is drinking acceptable if you have diabetes? The answer is yes, in moderation, providing that you take the proper precautions. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) asserts that alcohol can be incorporated into a diet plan, provided that blood sugar control is already well established and other conditions that aren't compatible with alcohol consumption (such as pregnancy or certain diabetic complications) don't exist.
How It Works
When you drink, your liver decreases its ability to release glucose so that it can instead clean the alcohol from your blood. Because glucose production is shut down, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) becomes a risk for people with diabetes, particularly if you drink on an empty stomach or shortly after taking insulin or glucose-lowering oral medications. And because it takes two hours for just one ounce of alcohol to metabolize and leave your system, the risk continues long after you've emptied your glass.
A Two-Drink Maximum
For individuals with well-controlled diabetes, alcohol intake should follow the same guidelines the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has established for the general population. This means a maximum of two drinks per day for men and one drink daily for women. (A higher alcohol intake is allowed for most men because women have a lower body water content then men and also metabolize alcohol more slowly.) In addition, due to physiological changes such as loss of lean body mass that occur as the body ages, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism recommends that anyone over age 65 should not consume more than one alcoholic drink daily.
One drink is defined as:
- 12 ounces of regular beer (150 calories)
- 5 ounces of wine (100 calories)
- 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits (100 calories)
[One drink equals 2 fat exchanges; regular beer is an additional 1 starch exchange.]
Alcohol has no nutritional value.
1-American Diabetes Association. Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes - 2010. http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/33/Supplement_1/S11.full. (Accessed 6/29/11).
2-NIAAA. Alcohol and Aging. http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa40.htm. (Accessed 6/29/11).
3-USDA. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/DietaryGuidelines/2010/PolicyDoc/Chapter3.pdf. (Accessed 6/29/11).
Reviewed by Francine Kaufman, MD. 4/08
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