Tips for Staying in Control While Consuming Alcohol

Alcohol can continue to lower your blood glucose for several hours after you drink it.

| Sep 1, 2004

Alcohol tends to lower blood glucose. This means you do not need to take extra insulin or medication to cover the alcohol you drink. In fact, it can be dangerous to do so.

People with diabetes should take the following precautions when consuming alcohol:

  • Alcohol can continue to lower blood glucose for several hours after you drink it. Therefore, you should check your blood glucose more often when drinking alcohol.
  • If you drink alcohol later in the day, you may need an evening or bedtime snack.
  • If you have a mixed drink with a sweetened carbonated beverage, fruit juice, or soda added, count this as part of your total carbohydrate for the meal and adjust your insulin accordingly.
  • Always eat something before or while drinking alcohol.
  • Check your blood glucose before and after you drink to get an idea of how your blood glucose responds to alcohol.
  • Alcohol can cause hypoglycemia. Always carry a glucose supply with you, and make sure that the people with you know that you have diabetes and understand how to help you treat a low blood glucose. The symptoms of hypoglycemia can appear similar to those of inebriation (confusion, irritability, dizziness, etc.) and can cause people to mistake hypoglycemia for intoxication.
  • Occasionally, alcohol intake will increase blood glucose. This is often due to the amount of carbohydrate in beer or in the juice or carbonated beverage in a mixed drink.

Alcohol Reduces Free Fatty Acids

“Acute alcohol consumption improves insulin action without affecting beta cell secretion.”

That was the finding of Italian researchers who suggest this effect may be partly due to the “inhibitory effect of alcohol on lipolysis,” or, the splitting up or chemical decomposition of fat. In their study, alcohol significantly increased insulin sensitivity in both groups.

In addition, alcohol reduced free fatty acid by 17 percent in control subjects but significantly decreased free fatty acid by 23 percent in type 2 volunteers.

—D. Trecroci, Diabetes Care, June 2004

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