Alcohol in diabetes.

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Alcohol in diabetes.

What is the effect of alcohol on the diabetic patient?

People with diabetes should be particularly careful about alcohol consumption, since alcohol does not require insulin in order to be metabolized and can cause hypoglycemic episodes, while its effect can lead to severe hypoglycemia even 24 hours after consumption. Consuming alcoholic beverages along with food has a small direct impact on blood glucose and insulin levels, however the amount to be consumed should correspond to a normal amount, since excessive amounts of alcohol (more than 3-4 glasses) contribute to hyperglycemia, which improves with alcohol interruption.

Are there any possible benefits from alcohol consumption?

According to the scientific bibliographic databases, small to moderate amounts of alcohol (15-30g alcohol/day) are associated with reduced risk of coronary artery disease, as well as an increase in HDL and an increase in insulin sensitivity to people with diabetes.

How many drinks can I consume?

Patients with diabetes mellitus should consume alcohol with moderation, in small to moderate amounts and always according to the recommendations of the physician and dietitian. Specifically, women are advised to consume up to 1 drink/day or about 15g of alcohol, while men should not exceed 2 drinks/day or about 30g of alcohol per day. It is good that glucose blood levels range from 100-140 mg/dl. If they are lower than 100 mg/dl it is preferable to drink alcohol with a small snack (bread, crackers) in order to increase blood glucose and then consume alcohol to avoid hypoglycemia.

Alcohol consumption is strongly contraindicated in diabetic pregnant women as well as in people with increased body weight, elevated blood pressure, and medical history of hepatopathy, advanced neuropathy, hypertriglyceridemia or pancreatitis.

An alcohol unit is equivalent to:

  • 1 glass of wine (100ml)
  • 1 glass of beer (250ml)
  • 25ml of “hard” drink (e.g. vodka, whiskey)



Andrea A. Howard, M. M. (2004). Effect of Alcohol Consumption on Diabetes Mellitus. American College of Physicians, p. 211.

Hellenic Association for the Study and Education of Diabetes Mellitus. (2017). Prevention of diabetes mellitus. Hellenic Diabetological Chronicle, 30(1).

L. Kathleen Mahan, S. E.-S. (2014). Krause’s Therapeutic Diet. Litsas.

Diabetes Association of Northern Greece, 2. (2013). Guide for people with diabetes mellitus. Thessaloniki.