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AskNadia : How Much Alcohol is Too Much for Diabetes

Dear Nadia,

I worry about my husband and how alcohol affects his diabetes. He usually has two glasses of wine a night with dinner. Is that too much?



Dear Kate,

Alcohol is such a big part of everyday relaxation and celebration for many. From a hard days at work, sport events, birthdays, graduations, weddings to Holidays.

Most people with diabetes can consume alcohol but it really depends on how well they are able to manage their diabetes and what type of medication they are taking.

Make sure you check in with your pharmacist and physician to insure any medication that is prescribed for your husband, does not have contraindication to his alcohol consumption.

The biggest concern with drinking and diabetes is how your blood sugar response.  Several drinks will increase your husband’s blood sugar or he may experience a low blood sugar and becomes unaware of the symptoms because hypoglycemia can be similar to feeling inebriated;  tired, dizzy and disoriented.



Consuming alcohol while taking insulin or type 2 medication can cause a hypoglycemia episode. It takes the liver two hours to metabolize one alcoholic drink. If your husband takes medication that stimulates the pancreas to produce more insulin, then he could experience a low blood sugar. Too much insulin in this case may create hypoglycemia.

It’s important for your husband to check his blood sugar before he goes to bed. The recommended range is 100-140 mg/dl. If his blood sugar is lower, than this range,  the American Diabetes Association recommends having a snack.



Drinking alcohol can increase your husband’s appetite causing him to eat more.

It’s also more difficult to stay within a nutritional regiment when you drink. Extra carbs will raise blood sugars.

It is also recommended to test your blood sugar before you start drinking.

See if your husband is willing to have  water in between his drinks and if he can sip his alcoholic drinks slowly.

Other Tips


~ Avoid mixed and sweetened drinks

~ Make sure you have eaten before drinking

~Test your blood sugar before drinking and at bedtime.

~ Never have more than one drink and wait until the alcohol is out of your system before you operate a vehicle.

~ Wear a medical identification bracelet in case you have an emergency

~ Have glucose handy for a hypoglycemia treatment

Avoid alcohol if you

~ Have a history of severe hypoglycemia

~ Have hypoglycemia unawareness

~ Have diabetic neuropathy


Who Should Not Drink

Under age young adults, pregnant women and people who take medications with contraindication should not drink alcohol.

Discuss your prescription and over the counter medication with your healthcare professional to learn more about which medication indicate no alcohol consumption.


Health.Gov Recommendations

~ 1 drink per day for women

~ 2 drinks per day for men

Note all alcoholic drinks are not equal. The size of the glass, the type of alcohol and the alcohol percent defines what is considered one drink.

In your husband’s case; 5 ounces of wine that is 12% proof is considered one serving. The daily recommendation is not to exceed two 5 ounce portions that is 12% alcohol.

Using a measuring cup to learn what 5 ounces looks like will help with portion control.

Let’s say your husband wants to have beer while at a aprty. 12 ounces of beer that has 4.2% alcohol . This will count as one serving.  Let’s say he also wants to add a shot of distilled liquor; 1.5 ounces that is 80% proof,  this will count as his second serving. The good news is that he can still enjoy drinking while watching the game, assuming his blood sugars are within his physicians recommended range and that he is not taking medication that is contraindicated with alcohol. He will also be within his recommended  daily allowance for alcoholic beverages.

Alcoholic Drink-Equivalents  of Select Beverages by Health.Gov

Drink Description Drink-Equivalents
Beer, beer coolers, and malt beverages
12 fl oz at 4.2% alcohol 0.8
12 fl oz at 5% alcohol (reference beverage) 1
16 fl oz at 5% alcohol 1.3
12 fl oz at 7% alcohol 1.4
12 fl oz at 9% alcohol 1.8
5 fl oz at 12% alcohol (reference beverage) 1
9 fl oz at 12% alcohol 1.8
5 fl oz at 15% alcohol 1.3
5 fl oz at 17% alcohol 1.4
Distilled spirits
1.5 fl oz 80 proof distilled spirits (40% alcohol)

(reference beverage)

Mixed drink with more than 1.5 fl oz 80 proof distilled spirits (40% alcohol) > 1d

One alcoholic drink-equivalent is defined as containing 14 grams (0.6 fl oz) of pure alcohol. The following are reference beverages that are one alcoholic drink-equivalent: 12 fluid ounces of regular beer (5% alcohol), 5 fluid ounces of wine (12% alcohol), or 1.5 fluid ounces of 80 proof distilled spirits (40% alcohol). Drink-equivalents are not intended to serve as a standard drink definition for regular drinks.


Too Much Alcohol

Excessive drinking is when a women consume more than 4 alcoholic beverages per day or 8 or more alcoholic beverages per week.

For men excessive drinking is 5 or more alcoholic beverages per day or 15 or more alcoholic beverages per week.


Binge Drinking

This is defined by how many drinks you have in two hours. What defines too much?

~ Women that drink 5 or more drinks within a two hour period are classified as binge drinkers.

~ Men who consume 8 or more alcoholic beverages within a 2 hour period are also classified as binge drinkers.

You Might Also Enjoy Reading These Articles About Alcohol & Diabetes:


1- Diabetes and Alcohol: What You Need to Know

2- Scientists Figure Out How Alcohol Lowers Blood Sugar

3- Alcohol Use May Boost Food Intake 



 Health Gov

AskNadia and receive her unique perspective on your question.

Email Nadia at [email protected].


Nadia’s feedback on your question is in no way intended to initiate or replace your healthcare professionals therapy or advice. Please check in with your medical team to discuss your diabetes management concerns.

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About Nadia:

Nadia was not only born into a family with diabetes but also married into one. She was propelled at a young age into “caretaker mode,” and with her knowledge of the scarcity of resources, support, and understanding for people with diabetes, co-founded Diabetes Interview now Diabetes Health magazine.

Nadia has received 14 nominations for her work as a diabetes advocate.
 She has been featured on ABC, NBC, CBS, and other major cable networks. Her publications, medical supply business, and website have been cited, recognized and published in the San Francisco Chronicle, The Wall Street Journal, Ann Landers advice column, former Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca, Entrepreneur magazine, Houston News,, Brand Week, Drug Topics, and many other media outlets.




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