By Marsha McCulloch, R.D., L.D.
Can I drink alcohol? It's one of the top questions people with diabetes (PWDs) ask their doctors after diagnosis. The answer varies based on individual factors and your diabetes management. But in general, diabetes experts' views about mixing diabetes and alcohol are softening. Here is expert advice on drinking and diabetes, plus the nutrition information you need to know for your meal plan.
Possible Benefits of Alcohol
Although no one would advise you to start drinking if you typically abstain, a drink or two may carry some benefits. "Some studies have shown that light to moderate alcohol intake (one to two drinks a day) may reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease," says Sue McLaughlin, R.D., CDE, president of Health Care and Education for the American Diabetes Association.
Preliminary research suggests moderate alcohol intake could improve blood glucose control, too. In a study of more than 38,500 PWDs, scientists found that moderate drinkers had the best A1C (average blood glucose) values, compared with those who didn't drink at all or who drank heavily. (Heavy drinking -- three or more drinks a day -- contributes to high blood glucose, alcoholism, and liver disease.)
"Moderate alcohol intake may improve insulin sensitivity -- that's the body's ability to respond to a given concentration of insulin to lower blood glucose," says the study's lead researcher, Ameena Ahmed, M.D., M.P.H., of Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, California.
Ahmed says there's also evidence that moderate drinking may reduce risk of developing type 2 diabetes. A review of 32 studies on alcohol and diabetes (primarily type 2) found moderate alcohol intake was linked with a 33-56 percent lower incidence of diabetes.
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