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What Is the Relationship Between Beer and Diabetes?

Beer.
Three types of beer in pilsner glasses.
Hops, which are used to make beer.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 31 July 2014
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Beer and diabetes relate in several ways. First, diabetics must monitor the amount of any alcohols consumed, because most alcohol contains sugar or carbohydrates, which affect blood sugar levels. Beer affects medications used to treat diabetes, and there are times when beer can dramatically lower blood sugar, which proves problematic if a person is incapacitated from drinking and doesn’t realize he has become hypoglycemic. Lastly, beer does not have great nutritional value and consuming it may mean consuming a lot of empty calories that make it difficult to maintain a healthy weight.

Any diabetic has to keep constant watch on blood sugar levels. It is dangerous when sugar levels rise above normal (hyperglycemia), or sink below normal (hypoglycemia). A diabetic uses medication to maintain sugar levels within a safe range, and depending on when beer is consumed, the beer and diabetes connection may mean creating a scenario where a person becomes hyperglycemic or hypoglycemic. On an empty stomach, a beer can dramatically lower blood sugar levels, and after significant eating, one or more beers may raise these levels. Essentially, beer and diabetes are connected in one way because they act together to make it more difficult to control blood sugar levels.

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Much of the time the real danger with beer and diabetes is that the beverage may induce hypoglycemia. Alcohol can shut off sugar production in the body and when this is combined with medications for diabetes that do the same, people can end up with dramatically low blood sugar. The symptoms of low blood sugar can be mistaken for intoxication, and the more beer a person drinks, the less likely he or she is to notice the hypoglycemic state to take medications that can correct it. For this reason, doctors recommend that patients not consume much of any type of alcohol in one sitting, or at any time, and they should especially not drink beer on an empty stomach or after taking medication to lower blood sugar.

Diabetics are enjoined to keep healthy diets and maintain a healthy weight. Many people are even able to discontinue medications simply by losing weight. Beer and diabetes have a further connection when it comes to weight maintenance. Beer can have a lot of calories, and sometimes contains more calories than a soda. Just because beer isn’t sweet, it does not mean that it isn’t caloric and an obstruction to weight maintenance. People are better off avoiding it completely, or restricting their consumption of beer and other types alcohol to minimal and occasional use.

There have been some interesting studies on diabetes and beer drinkers, and though some of the studies are several decades old, they do suggest correlation between beer drinking, diabetes and higher earlier mortality rates, when compared to diabetics who principally drank other alcohols like wine. Additionally, significant beer drinking may increase risk for diabetes, if they gain a lot of weight from empty calories. There’s suggestion that beer and alcohol consumption of all other types are best in moderation, whether or not people have diabetes.

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Discuss this Article

anon331179
Post 6

We are all slaves to some vice. For some, it's food, some it's pills, alcohol, smoking, excessive anything isn't good. Just stay lean. It's the best advice I can give, and if you're not lean, than start lowering you intake to lean down.

Everything in moderation. Excess due to overindulging will result in some form of breakdown, mental and physical.

oasis11
Post 5

@SauteePan - I think that sugar free foods taste so good because they often add more fat and other ingredients to make the food taste good.

There was a package of sugar free shortbread cookies that I would buy because I really liked the taste until I realized that they contained over 50% fat.

From then on, I bought the regular cookies and just modified the amount that I would eat.

Also, I noticed that with some of the sugar free foods they tend to create constipation if you eat too many of these types of foods. So I try to eat these types of food in moderation.

SauteePan
Post 4

@Brickback - I agree with you. In fact many of the diets that offer lean protein and whole grain carbohydrates are also recommended for diabetics as well. I am also glad that I never had a problem with alcohol because I really do not like the taste of it. At least it is one high calorie drink that I don’t have a problem eliminating from my diet.

I also wanted to say that there are a lot of sugar free foods that do taste pretty good. With some of them I can’t really tell the difference between regular foods and foods are sugar free. These sugar free foods have really come a long way.

BrickBack
Post 3

@Sunshine31 - I know that the diabetic diet requires an elimination of sugar and processed carbohydrates, but if you think about it, a diabetes diet is actually a healthy diet for everyone to follow. Even if you don’t have diabetes, if you follow a type 2 diabetes diet for example, most people would lose a lot of weight and would actually have a lot more energy along with healthier hearts.

I heard that it has something to do with sugar and the way that the body metabolizes it. When a person ingests sugary foods it tends to hinder the body’s mechanism for burning calories which is why the removal of sugar is the first thing that is required in all diets in order to lose weight.

sunshine31
Post 2

@Anon143368 -I am so sorry to hear about your condition. I know that a lot of young kids start drinking at an early age and later develop a dependence to alcohol. It also happens with cigarette smoking too.

So you are definitely not alone. Alcohol and diabetes are a big problem but thankfully there are a lot of support groups and treatment options available for those that are suffering with both conditions.

anon143368
Post 1

Scary. I've been drinking beer excessively since high school and now I'm 57, recently diagnosed with type 2. This article helped me understand why it's been so difficult to "manage" my alcoholism lately.

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