Alcohol & Diabetes Risk

The Effect of Alcohol on Diabetes

13% of North American adults have diabetes, and that’s not including those who are pre-diabetic or at risk. It takes concerted effort, planning, and grit to manage your sugars. While many of us go through stages of wanting to reduce our sugars, there’s added pressure, temptation, and stress when there are no choice around-consuming sugars. Still, you might decide to cut out cake and chocolate – apparent candidates – but forget that you also consume sugars while drinking. Drinks often slip under the radar when it comes to maintaining balanced glucose levels, and for those who struggle to keep theirs under control, drinking can be a way to relax. This oversight can be costly to health. Not only are there substantial calories in alcohol, but there is a lot of sugar. 

Alcohol is made from natural sugars and starch, and the number of calories depends on the fermentation process specific to the kind of alcohol you are consuming. The calories in alcohol are empty calories, meaning they don’t have any nutritional value. It’s easy to write off drinks and focus your successes on how you abstain from unhealthy food choices but drink calories add up. For instance, one gram of alcohol contains seven calories, and one gram of fat contains nine calories. Remember that when you’re drinking hard liquor, it’s common to add in other sodas and drinks with added sugars. 

Let’s break down the calories and sugar content in common alcoholic beverages. 

You might drink a cider each evening to wind down while talking to a friend on the phone, and you probably don’t even think about it. 

  • A six-pack of cider (4.5%, 500 mL cans) will add 1,260 calories and 126 grams or 32 teaspoons of sugar to your diet throughout a week. 
  • A bottle of wine (12.5%, 750 mL) contains 564 calories and 22.5 grams or 4.5 teaspoons of sugar. 

You might not even put that much in the picture of lemonade. So, if your sugars are off-kilter and you feel foggy and low energy the morning after drinking, you know the culprit. If you choose to drink, your best bet for an option with the lowest sugar content is a glass of red wine or a beer.

Alcohol starts to affect your body the moment you take your first sip. While it may feel as if the occasional drink isn’t a concern, the cumulative effects of drinking wine, beer, or spirits over a prolonged period can negatively affect your health. It’s not just about putting that extra sugar in your body but instead about the way that alcohol affects your body’s ability to process sugar. Drinking alcohol affects your pancreas and liver, and your pancreas is responsible for keeping balanced sugar levels in the body. Drinking too much can take its toll on the pancreas, which can cause an imbalance in your blood sugars and lead to increased diabetes-related complications.  

Aside from the direct impact on blood glucose levels, consuming less sugar can make you feel better. It can be hard to find a compelling enough reason to reduce sugar, but at ALAViDA, we get an inside look at how members feel at the start of their program and when they leave the program. At that point, most have reduced their drinking and sugars, and it shows. Many members feel increased energy and desire to exercise, as well as experiencing weight loss. When you know the sugar content of alcohol, it empowers you to make choices about how you consume your sugars, and you might find that you prefer the occasional piece of cake to a bottle of wine. 

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