Diabetic. Symptoms. Manage.

Drinking and Type 2 Diabetes

Many wonder if it is safe for people with diabetes to drink alcohol. Although research show that there are some health benefits from moderate drinking such as reducing the risk of heart diseases, there are also risks.

One of the main concern is that alcohol drinking can cause a dangerous drop in blood glucose levels and can be fatal. In normal conditions, our liver works to regulate and increase blood glucose levels when it is too low. However, in heavy drinking and if one is on insulin or certain oral diabetes medications like sulphonylurea (eg. gliclazide, glibenclamide), the liver has to work to remove alcohol from the blood stream instead of his main function to regulate blood glucose. This causes the blood glucose to drop and stay low until the alcohol is removed. Alcohol also can cause dehydration and in the long term, may lead to weight gain as it contains calories. In addition, alcohol can affect other medical conditions you may have, like diabetic nerve damage, diabetic eye disease, and high blood triglycerides.

It is therefore important to be aware and understand the effects of alcohol on your diabetes and always check with your healthcare provider before drinking. If you choose to drink alcohol, drink in moderation. The American Diabetes Association recommends the same guidelines for people with diabetes as those without diabetes if they choose to drink. Women should not drink more than 1 drink per day and men should not drink more than 2 drinks per day. One drink is equal to a 12 oz beer, 5 oz glass of wine or 1 ½ oz distilled spirits (vodka, whiskey, gin, etc.). One should monitor blood glucose before, during and after drinking and should not drink on an empty stomach. The symptoms of low blood glucose are similar and can be mistaken for drunkenness. Therefore, alert the people around you that you have diabetes, and carry some glucose tablets with you for emergency.

Check with your healthcare provider to make sure alcohol doesn’t interfere with your medications or complicate any of your medical conditions. Speak to your healthcare provider for further information.


  1. Diabetes UK. Alcohol – drinking and diabetes. [Internet]. [cited 2017 September 23]. Available from: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/enjoy-food/what-to-drink-with-diabetes/alcohol-and-diabetes
  2. Diabetes Teaching Center at the University of California, San Francisco. Diabetes and alcohol. [cited 2017 September23]. Available from: https://dtc.ucsf.edu/living-with-diabetes/diet-and-nutrition/diabetes-alcohol/

alcohol, diabetes, heart disease, blood glucose, binge drinking, heavy drinking, insulin, liver, diabetic nerve damage, diabetic medication, high blood triglycerides

About The Author
Lee E Lyn
Ms. Lee E Lyn graduated with a BPharm (Hons) degree from International Medical University in 2011. She started working as a hospital pharmacist and headed the diabetes medication therapy adherence clinic in the hospital. This sparked her interest in diabetes care and chronic disease management to which she then pursued a Masters in Medical and Health Sciences degree in this area. She is a member of the Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society (MPS) and is actively involved in projects under the Young Pharmacist Chapter of MPS.

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