Alcoholism and Diabetes Mellitus PMC

Your body processes alcohol differently than most foods and beverages. And if you have type 2 diabetes, drinking alcohol may have some benefits—such as lowering glucose levels in the blood—and some real risks, like driving glucose levels down too low. Alcohol is known to increase risk of developing diabetes-related complications including heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and nerve damage (neuropathy). People who have diabetes are usually advised not to drink at all or only consume small amounts of alcohol because it could make their condition worse or lead them to develop complications earlier than expected. Severe health consequences can occur even with moderate drinking.

There are some who believe that red wine can help improve diabetes symptoms. This incorrect assumption arises from some studies that indicate that moderate use of wine decreases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The best way to overcome diabetes and alcoholism is to seek professional treatment. On a side note, if you’re struggling to control your drinking despite the damage it’s causing, you may have an alcohol use disorder.


Diabetes is defined as an imbalance of glucose metabolism, leading to high blood sugar levels and serious health consequences. Alcohol can both increase and decrease the levels of these blood sugars, exacerbating pre-existing diabetic symptoms. When you know you have diabetes, you also know that there are some things you have to be mindful about, including what may cause your blood glucose to rise or fall. Drinking even small amounts of alcohol can have an impact on your blood sugar readings.

can alcoholism cause diabetes

Be sure to eat a meal or snack containing carbohydrates if you are going to drink alcohol. Because many of the symptoms of hypoglycemia—such as slurred speech, drowsiness, confusion, or difficulty walking—are also symptoms of being drunk, it can be difficult to tell the two apart. And if you often have hypoglycemia unawareness, a condition in which you don’t recognize you’re going low, drinking becomes especially dicey. Timing may also be an issue, as hypoglycemia can strike hours after your last drink, especially if you’ve been exercising.

Alcoholism and Diabetes: Can Alcoholism Increase Your Risk of Developing Type 2 Diabetes?

Alcoholics are almost always unable to control how much they drink or pay attention to how drinking might be affecting their blood sugar or long-term health. If you are managing your diabetes with diet and exercise alone, drinking alcohol can stil increase your risk of low blood sugars. And if you take insulin or types of diabetes pills that stimulate insulin production, drinking alcohol can lead to even more serious low blood sugar reactions. For example, studies have shown that for people who have type 2 diabetes, occasionally drinking alcohol may slightly reduce glucose levels.

  • This means that insulin loses its ability to lower blood glucose levels effectively, leading to high blood sugar levels over time.
  • Alcohol intake reduces cognitive function, resulting in slow pupil movement and, gradually, weaker eye muscles.
  • Food slows down the rate at which alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream.

Binge drinking is responsible for more than 40% of the deaths and three-quarters of the costs due to excessive alcohol use. States and communities can prevent binge drinking by supporting effective policies and programs, such as those recommended by the Community Preventive Services Task Force. The decision to include alcohol in your life with type 2 diabetes is a personal one. If you decide you want to drink, talk with your healthcare provider or diabetes educator about how to safely weigh the risks and benefits.

USDA National Nutrient Database UCSF Medical Center 7/05

Previously, our study demonstrated that chronic heavy drinking aggravates T2DM. However, more attention needs to be paid to impact of chronic alcohol consumption on the glucose metabolism and insulin resistance that have already been described in patients with T2DM. First, this is the only community-based, prospective study of the association between alcohol and the risk of type 2 diabetes with a sample that included Whites, Blacks, women, and men.

can alcoholism cause diabetes

Drinking water or other non-caloric beverages between alcoholic drinks may help prevent blood sugar levels from dropping during or after drinking sessions. Different types of alcohol will affect blood sugar differently; for example, beer and sugary cocktails are carb-heavy, so they temporarily increase blood glucose. However, all types of alcohol can lead to potentially dangerous drops in blood pressure. In order to prevent alcohol-induced hypoglycemia, it is important that diabetics eat food whenever they drink. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases recommends that women with diabetes have no more than one alcoholic drink per day and men have no more than two drinks per day.

The main function of your liver is to store glycogen, which is the stored form of glucose, so that you will have a source of glucose when you haven’t eaten. When you drink alcohol, your liver has to work to remove it from your blood instead of working to regulate blood sugar, or blood glucose. For this reason, you should never drink alcohol when your blood glucose is already low. Alcohol can interact with diabetes medications and impact your blood sugar. If you’re living with diabetes, talk to your doctor about how alcohol may impact your condition management plan, even if you only have an occasional alcoholic beverage. It’s important to note alcoholism is just one of many risk factors for diabetes.

  • This can cause a host of symptoms, from thirst and frequent urination to slow-healing wounds and disorientation.
  • For T1DM, hypoglycemia is always due to excessive insulin dosage.
  • Alcohol exacerbates this condition, leading to hyperalgesia, which heightens an individual’s response to pain.
  • Even if you only rarely drink alcohol, talk with your healthcare provider about it so that he or she knows which medications are best for you.

The bottom line is that any person with diabetes who wishes to consume alcohol should first discuss it with a doctor. Alcohol use disorder can include periods of being drunk (alcohol intoxication) and symptoms of withdrawal. The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends that health care providers screen all adults for excessive alcohol use and provide brief intervention and referral to treatment as needed. CDC collects data that states and communities can use to inform public health strategies to reduce excessive drinking and related harms. Drinking too much alcohol increases the risk of injuries, including those from motor vehicle crashes, falls, drownings, and burns. It increases the risk of violence, including homicide, suicide, and sexual assault.

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