Consuming alcohol is a matter of debate in the medical community. The natural reaction is to discourage it, especially if people are drinking excessive amounts and abusing it. Yet, on the other hand, some research suggests that drinking beer or wine can actually improve health.
So what is the answer for people with diabetes? Moderation. The truth is that if you have good control over your blood glucose levels, an occasional drink is harmless. Research has even shown that light to moderate alcohol intake is associated with a reduced risk of death from coronary heart disease for those with type 2 diabetes.
But, what does “in moderation” mean? For women, moderate drinking is defined as no more that one drink daily. For men, it’s no more than two. A drink is equivalent to 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine or 1 1/2 ounces of 80 proof distilled liquor.
Of course, everyone is different. Some of the medications you take may affect your ability to drink alcohol. You may also have complications that could be worsened by alcohol (such as neuropathy, kidney disease and hypertension). Therefore, you should first consult your physician before deciding to drink.
Here are a few factors to consider before deciding to drink alcohol:
• Alcohol can affect the body’s ability to get over a low blood sugar level. So, drinking on an empty stomach is extremely dangerous. If you use insulin or sulfonylureas, you should drink alcohol only with meals.
• Alcohol contain calories and has dietary consequences. It is substituted for fat calories, with one drink equal to 2 fat exchanges or 90 calories. And because they do not provide any nutrients, alcoholic drinks are considered empty calories.
• Symptoms of drunkenness and hypoglycemia are similar; therefore alcohol may mask the effects of a hypoglycemic episode.
• Some drinks are better choices for people with diabetes, such as light beer, dry wines and drinks that are lower in alcohol and sugar. Mixers should be sugar-free, such as diet soft drinks, diet tonic, club soda, seltzer or water. This can help you keep your blood sugar levels on target.
Most importantly, if you do decide to drink, don’t get drunk. Being drunk can cause people to neglect regular blood glucose monitoring, take chances with drunk driving or make other poor choices related to their health. As an adult, you understand the consequences, so drink safely and responsibly.