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Diabetes and alcohol

If you are living with diabetes, there are some important things to consider when you drink alcohol.

Diabetes and alcohol

Diabetes and alcohol

Most people with diabetes can enjoy small amounts of alcohol. However, it’s best to discuss how much is appropriate for you with your diabetes healthcare team.1

If you are living with diabetes, there are some important things to consider when you drink alcohol. Alcohol can have many different effects on your body, including:2

Making it more difficult to manage your diabetes – drinking alcohol can cause both high and low blood glucose levels. It may also affect your judgement when looking after your diabetes.

Putting you at higher risk of hypoglycaemia – if you are taking insulin or certain diabetes medication, you are at risk of alcohol-related hypoglycaemia. This can occur while drinking alcohol—or many hours afterwards—and can be dangerous. Alcohol can also make it harder to recognise the symptoms of, and to treat, hypoglycaemia.

Weight gain – alcohol is high in calories and has very little nutritional value. If you drink alcohol in large amounts, or on a regular basis, it can lead to weight gain.

Damage to your body – drinking large amounts of alcohol can affect many different parts of the body, including your brain, nerves, liver and pancreas. Over time, too much alcohol can increase your risk of developing heart disease and some cancers.

Risk of complications – too much alcohol puts you at risk of developing diabetes-related complications because it can contribute to weight gain, increase triglycerides (blood fats) and raise blood pressure.

Alcohol guidelines

If you choose to drink, you should limit your intake, especially if you need to control your weight or lose weight.

Current guidelines recommend no more than two standard drinks a day for both men and women.1 It is also best to drink alcohol with a meal or some carbohydrate-containing food.

One standard drink is equal to:

  • 100 mL wine
  • 285 mL regular beer
  • 30 mL spirits
  • 60 mL fortified wine
  • 375 mL low-alcohol beer (less than 3% alcohol)

Tips for drinking less alcohol2

  • Drink some water before having any alcohol so that you are not thirsty.
  • Choose low-alcohol (not low-carb) beer.
  • Sip alcoholic drinks slowly.
  • Alternate your alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic drinks such as water or soda water.
  • Dilute alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic mixers to reduce the alcohol content. For example, mix beer with diet lemonade to make a shandy or mix soda water with wine.
  • Make sure you have regular alcohol-free days.

References

1. Diabetes Australia. Should I drink alcohol? Available at: https://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/food-activity/eating-well/should-i-drink-alcohol/

2. National Diabetes Services Scheme. Alcohol fact sheet. Available at: https://www.ndss.com.au/about-diabetes/resources/find-a-resource/alcohol-fact-sheet/

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