Alcohol and Diabetes
Consult your physician to determine what alcohol consumption limits you, personally, should not exceed.
Alcohol is everywhere: at family reunions, picnics, even around sports fields. But people with diabetes need to take precautions when it comes to alcohol consumption. Here are some tips to help you make informed choices.
Your body and alcohol
Diabetes Canada 2018 Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Prevention and Treatment of Diabetes in Canada recommends that people with diabetes limit their consumption of alcohol based on the same recommendation for the general public:
- A maximum of 2 alcoholic drinks per day
- Less than 10 alcoholic drinks per week
- A maximum of 3 drinks per day
- Less than 15 alcoholic drinks per week
One alcoholic drink is the equivalent of:
- 340 mL (12 oz.) of beer (5% alcohol)
- 140 mL (5 oz.) of wine vin (red or white) at 12% alcohol
- 85 mL (3 oz.) of fortified wine (ex.: port) at 20% alcohol
- 45 mL (1.5 oz.) of spirits at 40% alcohol
If you suffer from high blood pressure, have a high triglyceride level in your blood, have liver or neurological problems, it would be better to limit your consumption of alcohol.
When in doubt, consult your physician to determine what alcohol consumption limits you, personally, should not exceed.
Never drink alcohol on an empty stomach!
Alcohol has a hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) effect because it prevents the liver from producing sugar when foods don’t supply enough of it. This phenomenon can happen when drinking alcohol on its own, as an aperitif, for example.
Drinking alcohol when taking insulin or insulin secretagogue medication* puts you at extra risk of hypoglycemia.
A hypoglycemic episode under such conditions can be very serious because your body, while it is metabolizing the alcohol, cannot regulate your blood sugar the way it normally does. Hypoglycemia can even occur up to 24 hours later!
* Insulin secretagogues: gliclazide (Diamicron® and Diamicron MR®), glimepiride (Amaryl®), glyburide (Diabeta®), repaglinide (GlucoNorm®).
Hypoglycemia: Some prevention tips for people at risk
- Drink alcohol slowly.
- Never drink alcohol on an empty stomach.
- Measure your blood glucose levels often. Do not forget to do it before going to bed.
- Have an extra snack before bed, as needed to prevent hypoglycemia.
- Make sure to get up at your usual time for breakfast the day after imbibing.
- Avoid alcohol before, during and after exercise.
- Note: Glucagon cannot counteract hypoglycemia caused by excessive alcohol consumption.
Carbohydrate content of common alcoholic beverages
|Type of drink||Quantity|
|Beer (5% alcohol)||340 mL (12 oz.)||12||145|
|Light beer (4% alcohol)||340 mL (12 oz.)||5||100|
|Non-alcoholic beer (0.5% alcohol)||340 mL (12 oz.)||12-18||60-85|
|Cognac||45 mL (1.5 oz.)||0||115|
|Cherry Brandy||45 mL (1.5 oz.)||15||125|
|Gin, rum, rye, scotch, vodka, whisky||45 mL (1.5 oz.)||0||100|
|Dry white wine (12% alcohol)||140 mL (5 oz.)||1||95|
|Sparkling wine, champagne||140 mL (5 oz.)||2||105|
|Dry red wine (12% alcohol)||140 mL (5 oz.)||2||100|
|Rosé wine||140 mL (5 oz.)||2||100|
|Port||85 mL (3 oz.)||10||130|
Source: Adapted from the Manuel de nutrition clinique de l’OPDQ (Clinical Nutrition Manual of the Professional Order of Québec Dietitians), 2007.
Research and text : Diabetes Québec Team of Health Care Professionals
Educ’alcool. (2018). La modération en quatre chiffres : 2-3-4-0 [Online]. From http://educalcool.qc.ca/alcool-et-vous/sante/la-moderation-en-quatre-chiffres-2-3-4-0/#.WxAJ-e4vyUl (page consulted in May 2018)
J.L. Sievenpiper et al. (2018) “Nutrition Therapy,” 2018 Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Prevention and Treatment of Diabetes in Canada, (Canadian Journal of Diabetes, vol 42 p. S64-S79), Diabetes Canada.
You can stretch your fruit juice or wine by adding sparkling water to make a sort of sangria or spritzer.
The weather is fabulous, it’s hot, your golf game has just ended, and you are parched. You can’t wait to grab a cool drink in the club house! But when it’s hot, are all summer drinks created equal? And are they appropriate for people with diabetes?
If you opt for an alcoholic beverage, the best choices are often the simplest: a regular, light or carbohydrate-reduced beer, or a glass of chilled wine. These drinks are easier to manage for people with diabetes than cocktails whose ingredients are unknown.
Of course, to quench your thirst, the best choice is always water, whether plain or fruit-flavoured and sugar-free. Why not try a glass of sparkling water filled with ice cubes in which you have frozen bits of fruit or citrus peel? Or decorate your glass with a strawberry or some mint leaves. A delicious and appealing way to enjoy a simple glass of water.
Research and text: Diabetes Québec Team of Health Care Professionals
Adapted from: Savoie Nathalie, Dietitian. (Summer 1999). “Les «drinks» de l’été, Plein Soleil, Diabetes Québec, p. 15-16