Vodka and Diabetes
As a person with diabetes, you will have to give up many foods and manage eating others. However, can you add alcohol to your diabetic food menu? Yes, you can. But wait, there’s a twist to that — only if you choose the right drinks while watching your blood sugar levels.
Even though you can safely drink alcohol (in moderation), its adverse effects on diabetics and non-diabetics cannot be overlooked. Therefore, you must take certain precautions to ensure that the complications of diabetes do not occur.
Still, what is the scientific basis for its effects on diabetics? There are various research journals and studies on alcohol and diabetes, many of which this article carefully scrutinizes. We’ll get to see the ill effects of its consumption in diabetics, and benefits, if any.
Does Alcohol Have Any Effect on Diabetics?
Studies on the relationship between the intake of alcohol and diabetes yield varied results due to various factors like gender, level of consumption, etc. In light of this, this section presents the different health effects of alcohol on diabetes, both good and bad.
Affects Blood Sugar Level
For people with diabetes, managing blood sugar levels is essential to prevent complications or other adverse effects. Surprisingly, research proves that alcohol helps maintain optimal blood sugar levels when certain factors are put in place.
In a 20-year follow-up study of 22,778 Finnish twins, a total of 580 type 2 diabetes cases were uncovered following the collation of specific data like medical records, medication use, alcohol intake, diet, etc. According to the study, moderate consumption of alcohol (5–19.9 g in women and 5–29.9 g in men daily) is linked to a relatively reduced risk of type 2 diabetes compared to low consumption (less than 5 g daily).
Overall, overweight subjects present an even lower risk. Other novel discoveries include an increased risk for the condition in binge-drinking females and lean women who consumed high alcohol volumes (>20 g daily), but not in overweight men and women.
Yet, another 2018 abstract from the Endocrinology and Metabolism International Journal validates this hypothesis. It even goes further to mention that moderate alcohol intake promotes a lowered risk of macrovascular disorders and associated mortality, microvascular complications (e.g., nephropathy and retinopathy), and enhanced metabolic control.
Apart from the direct ill effect of high alcohol consumption on blood sugar levels, an Alcohol Research and Health article proves that chronic alcohol exposure prompts neuronal circuit changes in the brain.
According to research, this neurobiological alcoholism profile is associated with the mediation of insulin resistance, and by extension, the disruption of glucose homeostasis. One plausible mechanism for this is via the alteration of hunger hormones levels — ghrelin and leptin.
Increased Food Intake
While healthy eating is a health requirement for people with diabetes, moderate food intake is even more essential as overeating affects blood sugar control. This is an area of concern for diabetics who are alcoholics, as alcohol affects appetite.
According to research on vodka and diabetes, moderate intake of alcohol (vodka/orange juice) stimulates appetite, increasing cravings for high-fat savory foods. This could potentially lead to overeating and a subsequent increase in blood sugar.
Negative Interaction With Diabetes Medication
While diabetes medications are beneficial on their own, their concomitant use alongside alcohol poses specific threats.
An Acta Diabetologica abstract confirms the possibility of hypoglycemia when alcohol is ingested alongside sulphonylureas — an antidiabetic drug class. A higher risk of lactic acidosis is also likely when excessive alcohol intake is combined with metformin use. Moreover, another diabetes medication—chlorpropamide—causes a marked reduction in ethanol elimination rate from the blood.
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How Much Alcohol Is Okay for Diabetics?
For people with diabetes, moderate consumption is advised to prevent health complications. However, determining how much is just ‘safe’ to consume remains a bone of contention.
According to Dietary Guidelines for Americans published by the CDC, moderate alcohol consumption involves restricting intake to a maximum of one drink and a maximum of two drinks in women and men, respectively. One alcoholic drink refers to a 5-oz glass of wine, a 12-oz beer, or a 1.5-oz liquor shot.
Nonetheless, people with diabetes should try to drink even lesser amounts of alcohol or steer away from it entirely (in cases where they can’t control their intake).
How Can Diabetics Safely Drink Alcohol?
Mixed drinks and cocktails are certainly out of the option for diabetics because of their high sugar content and relatively high-calorie count. Instead, here are some safety tips to essay when drinking:
- Do not drink on an empty stomach
- Do not replace food with alcohol in a meal plan
- Try a light beer or other alcohol substitutes
- Sip drinks slowly
- Choose calorie-free mixers such as diet soda or tonic water
On the one hand, moderate alcohol intake presents some beneficial blood sugar-regulating properties, especially in overweight people. On the other hand, chronic alcohol use yields significant ill benefits in diabetics, especially when taken alongside anti-diabetic medications like metformin and chlorpropamide.
Overall, it is advised to steer clear of alcohol if you have diabetes. However, in cases when you must consume them, do so with discretion. Finally, your physician or dietician can advise you better based on the severity of your condition.
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