Author: Gary Jackson

Alcohol and Diabetes: Understanding the Risks and Benefits

For example, long-term alcohol use in well-nourished diabetics can result in excessive blood sugar levels. Conversely, long-term alcohol ingestion in diabetics who are not adequately nourished can lead to dangerously low blood sugar levels. Heavy drinking, particularly in diabetics, also can cause the accumulation of certain acids in the blood that may result in severe health consequences.

However, for people with diabetes, alcohol consumption can affect blood sugar levels. However, excessive alcohol consumption increases the risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), liver disease, and more. Within a few minutes of drinking alcohol, and for up to 12 hours afterward, alcohol can cause your blood glucose level to drop. After consuming alcohol, always check your blood glucose level to make sure it is in the safe zone. The risk of hypoglycemia is why experts advise people with diabetes not to drink alcohol if their blood sugar is already low.

Always test blood sugar before having an alcoholic beverage

The mechanisms underlying the development of alcoholic ketoacidosis are complex. However, some typical contributing factors result in insulin lack and excess glucagon levels, thereby promoting the development of ketoacidosis. As mentioned earlier in this article, poor food intake can lead to depleted glycogen levels.

  • These studies suggest that better glycemic control improves cognition and that there is a cognitive benefit to improving BDNF level in T2DM.
  • Alcohol impairs your liver’s ability to produce glucose, so be sure to know your blood glucose number before you drink an alcoholic beverage.
  • Those on the opposite ends of the spectrum—people that drink heavily and those that don’t—have a greater risk.
  • So you may not know if your blood sugar is low or what you’re feeling is just the effects of the alcohol.
  • Neuropathy, in addition to other factors (e.g., vascular disease in the penis or altered hormone levels), also may contribute to impotence, which is a common and troublesome complication in diabetic men.
  • It has been reported that chronic high doses of alcohol alone have been exhibited to be efficient in producing reversible insulin resistance [12].

In this article, we review recent studies on the association between alcohol consumption and the incidence of diabetes and suggested underlying mechanisms that is focused on insulin resistance. Furthermore, this review describes the appetite regulating peptides, particularly ghrelin and leptin, along with the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) that have been proposed as the basis for promising new therapies for diabetes. While moderate alcohol consumption lowers blood sugar, heavy consumption is harmful to diabetes and other aspects of health. People with diabetes can carry glucose tabs in case of an emergency, and they should check their blood sugar levels regularly.

Effects of Alcohol on Diabetes

The definition of “low blood glucose” can differ significantly across the major medical associations. Although in general, T2DM shows a less hypoglycemia risk, when compared to that of T1DM, the frequency of hypoglycemia increases with increased diabetes and insulin treatment duration in T2DM [22]. In patients with either T1DM or T2DM, the root cause of factual hypoglycemia is always hyperinsulinemia. However, the etiology of hyperinsulinemia varies depending on the type of treatment strategy. The combination of a GLP-1 agent and a sulfonurea is a potent mixture and may cause lower than normal blood glucose levels (i.e., hypoglycemia). Accordingly, more studies are needed to determine whether the beneficial effects of daily moderate alcohol consumption outweigh the deleterious effects.

  • This happens because the liver stores carbohydrates and releases them into the blood between meals and overnight to stabilizes blood sugar.
  • Those doses are equivalent to approximately 2.5 to 5 standard drinks.3 Interestingly, studies of acute alcohol exposure in nondiabetic people have yielded quite variable results, noting decreases, increases, or no changes in glucose levels.
  • One study found that women who drink moderately have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than women who do not drink.
  • Heavy alcohol consumption may increase a person’s risk for developing this disease.
  • If you are following a calorie-controlled meal plan, one drink of alcohol should be counted as two fat exchanges.

Previous studies of alcohol dependence have shown that alcohol elevated the level of β-cell apoptosis and increased insulin resistance in the liver and skeletal muscle, which is among the earliest detectable alterations in humans with T2DM [20]. These studies demonstrated the diabetes-related lipid abnormalities, by insulin sensitivity, mediated oxidative stress and the altered metabolism has been shown to have a deleterious effects after heavy drinking, an effect mediated by insulin. Impaired insulin signalling, combined with the eventual exhaustion of β-cell insulin production, causes T2DM. The development of both insulin resistance and impaired glucose tolerance, conditions that precede the onset of T2DM, are closely linked with alcoholism. Interesting conceptual notions connecting the impact of chronic heavy use of alcohol and T2DM on hippocamal LTP processes also have been elaborated from alteration of endogenous BDNF. BDNF, acting through its TrkB receptor, plays a role in the synaptic plasticity and positively moderates processes, which leads to a stable LTP in hippocampus [56], as well as glucose metabolism in diabetes [41].

Discover more about Type 2 Diabetes

This potentially beneficial effect was observed in both men and women, regardless of age. The alcohol amounts administered in those studies were usually between 0.5 g/kg (gram per kilogram body weight) and 1 g/kg, leading to blood alcohol levels (BALs) between approximately 0.03 and 0.1 percent2 (McDonald 1980). Those doses are equivalent to approximately 2.5 to 5 standard drinks.3 Interestingly, studies of acute alcohol exposure in nondiabetic people have yielded quite variable results, noting decreases, increases, or no changes in glucose levels. The findings discussed here presents that the role of chronic use of alcohol on diabetes might be high of importance for clinical research and practice.

  • Exercise can also increase the risk of hypoglycemia when coupled with other factors, such as drinking alcohol.
  • Most importantly, if individuals wish to engage in moderate drinking, they should first discuss it with their doctor.
  • The priming effect of alcohol-enhanced insulin secretion in pancreatic β-cells might be caused by an early defence mechanism, which is used to compensate for alcohol-inhibited basal insulin secretion.
  • Each alcoholic beverage takes between 1 and 1.5 hours to finish processing in the liver.
  • It’s also the body’s detoxification center, breaking down toxins like alcohol so the kidneys can easily flush them away.

Previously, our study demonstrated that chronic heavy drinking aggravates T2DM. On the other hand, this effect of ethanol on glucose levels was not observed in the non-diabetic rats, which indicate that the diabetic state appears to be more susceptible to heavy alcohol ingestion than those in the non-diabetic state [16]. 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.

Other problems related to alcohol and diabetes

In those patients, the immune system attacks certain cells of the pancreas, called beta cells. (For more information on the structure and function of the pancreas, see textbox, p. 213.) Beta cells produce insulin, one of the two major hormones involved in regulating the body’s blood sugar levels and other metabolic functions. Most importantly, insulin leads to the uptake of the sugar glucose into muscle and fat tissue and prevents glucose release from the liver, thereby lowering blood sugar levels (e.g., after a meal) (see figure). As a result of the immune system’s attack, the beta cells can no longer produce insulin. Because insulin is a key metabolic hormone, insulin deficiency leads to major impairment of the body’s regulation of carbohydrate, lipid, and protein metabolism. Hypoglycemia is defined as a state in which there are neuroglycopenic symptoms concurrent with a low blood glucose level.

diabetes and alcohol