AskNadia: Safe Alcoholic Drinks for Diabetics

Is a low-sugar drink such as San Miguel light regarded as a safe alcoholic drink for type 2 diabetics?

George

Dear George:

Your question is a perennial: Where do alcoholic beverages fit in to the life of a type 2? Is the best answer one that advises type 2s to abstain rather than run the risks that too much alcohol consumption generates?

I personally think that there’s room in type 2s’ lives for some alcohol consumption—such as San Miguel Light—which I’ll explain below. But first, let’s look at the reasons why alcohol is not wholeheartedly accepted as part of a type 2’s lifestyle.

There’s a hierarchy of carbohydrate content in alcoholic beverages:

  • Liquor (vodka, whiskey, tequila, gin, etc.) has no carbohydrates
  • Wine has some carbohydrates in it
  • Beer, ale, and malt liquors have the highest number of carbs among alcoholic drinks

Most type 2s can tell you that even though beer and wine have carbohydrates, their alcohol content can delay the liver’s manufacture of glucose as it processes the alcohol. The result is an often deceptive low blood glucose reading, which might lead the unaware think that alcohol is a friend when it comes to blood sugar control.

But delaying the manufacture of glucose is nowhere near the same as achieving control via the pleasant consumption of alcohol. It’s a practice that can backfire:

  • Alcohol’s effect in lowering blood sugar can be harmful if BG numbers drop too much—hypoglycemia is never something to take lightly
  • Diabetes is associated with increased risk of liver disease. Adding the burden of metabolizing alcohol only increases that risk.
  • The kidneys, too, work extra hard to process alcohol.
  • Low numbers can entice a drinker into overdoing alcohol. After all, if a little has such a good effect on blood glucose numbers, how can a little more be bad?
  • Since liquor has no carbohydrates, it may be tempting for a type 2 to switch from beer or wine to liquor because of that. But liquor’s high alcohol content is even harder on your liver and kidneys than other alcoholic beverages.

Bottom Line:

 I think that modest consumption of low-alcohol, low-carb (“lite”) beer can be OK. San Miguel has 3.2 grams of carbohydrates, and its low-carb rivals check in at about the same number or a little lower. The thing to remember is not to over-do. The most common guidelines offered for people with diabetes who consume alcoholic beverages is to drink modestly. Men can drink two of the beverages listed below each day, while women should limit themselves  to one:

  • 12-ounces of beer
  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 1.5 ounces of liquor

Other rules of thumb:

  • Drink alcohol with food.
  • Avoid sweet drinks or cocktails

Nadia

Disclaimer:

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, she co-founded Diabetes Interview, now Diabetes Health magazine.

Nadia holds 14 nominations for her work as a diabetes advocate. Her passion for working in the diabetes community stemmed from her personal loss—a mother and a brother who both succumbed from the effects of type 2 diabetes. She has used her experience as a caretaker to forge a career in helping others.

For 26 years, Diabetes Health has contributed free copies of the magazine to healthcare professionals and pharmacies that use the publication as an educational resource for patients living with diabetes.

 

 

 

 

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