Cups of white wine.
Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to an inflamed pancreas, which can cause diabetes.

Can Diabetics Drink Alcohol?

If you have diabetes, developing an effective treatment plan may help prevent complications. Usually, one part of a diabetic management plan is paying attention to your diet. The food you eat, along with the beverages you drink, can affect blood sugar levels. So, can diabetics drink alcohol?

When it comes to alcohol, you might wonder if you have to skip that glass of wine or pass on all alcoholic drinks. The article below takes a look at how alcohol can affect diabetes.

The Connection Between Diabetes and Alcohol

Having an occasional beer or glass of wine does not increase your risk of diabetes. But drinking alcohol in excess is linked to a higher chance of developing the condition.

According to the Mayo Clinic, drinking too much alcohol can lead to long-term inflammation of the pancreas, which can affect its ability to release insulin, leading to diabetes.

Alcohol use is also indirectly connected to diabetes. Drinking too much alcohol may lead to weight gain, which increases your risk of type 2 diabetes.

Is Alcohol Good or Bad for Diabetics?

Alcohol use for people with diabetes can be potentially good or bad, depending on the amount of alcohol a person drinks each day. For example, moderate alcohol use is not bad for people with diabetes. In fact, some studies suggest that drinking moderate amounts of red wine may modestly decrease the risk of cardiovascular events.

A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine involved 224 people with diabetes that were assigned to drink a glass of either white wine, red wine, or water with dinner each night for two years. The study found that the participants that drank the red wine increased their high-density cholesterol, which helps protect against heart disease.

But the key is moderation. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, drinking one drink a day for women and two for men is considered moderate. When alcohol drinking goes beyond moderation, it becomes bad for people with diabetes. Chronic alcohol use beyond moderation can increase insulin resistance, which can affect prober glycemic control.

How Often Can a Person With Diabetes Drink Alcohol?

There is no set number of days per week a person with diabetes can drink alcohol. But the number of drinks a person has does matter.

It's recommended that women with good blood sugar control should limit themselves to one alcoholic drink a day, and men should stop at two drinks. But people who do not have good blood sugar control and have frequent large fluctuations in glucose levels should not drink alcohol.

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Are There Any Side Effects of Drinking Alcohol?

There are potential side effects from drinking alcohol depending on the type of beverage and the amount, including the following:

Increased Blood Sugar Levels

If you drink alcohol that is high in carbohydrates and sugar, it can lead to a spike in blood sugar.


Drinking alcohol can also cause the opposite to happen. It can lower blood sugar levels. According to the American Diabetes Association, in patients with diabetes treated with insulin, alcohol use has been linked to up to one-fifth of hospital visits for hypoglycemia.

Drinking alcohol affects the liver’s ability to make glucose. When you drink alcohol, the liver goes to work to remove it from the blood instead of working to maintain proper blood sugar levels. The result is blood sugar levels may become out of whack more easily. It is essential to not drink alcohol if blood sugar levels are already low. Drinking can cause levels to fall even lower, leading to complications.

Interference With Medications

Having a few alcoholic drinks can also interfere with certain types of diabetic medications, especially meglitinides.

Adherence to Treatment

People who drink too much may not adhere to their treatment plan as well as those who only drink in moderation. For example, they may be less likely to test their blood sugar, get their A1C levels checked, and take their medications.

Drinking Alcohol With Diabetes

Although it appears that drinking in moderation may not be harmful to people with diabetes, it is important to keep a few factors in mind. Consider the following suggestions:

  • Do not drink on an empty stomach. Drinking alcohol on an empty stomach increases your risk of developing hypoglycemia.
  • Choose drinks lower in sugar. Alcoholic drinks often have high levels of carbohydrates and sugar. But some drinks have more than others. Steer clear of drinks with a lot of sugar. Opt for dry wines, light beers, and distilled alcohol, which tend to have less sugar than other drinks.
  • Test your blood sugar levels. Drinking alcohol can affect your blood sugar levels in either direction for up to 24 hours after you drink. It is important to monitor your levels closely.
  • Know your limit. Remember, moderation is key. Drinking too much or too often can increase your risk of health problems, including worsening diabetes.