Diabetics and red wine

Red Wine and Type 2 Diabetes: Is There a Link?

Adults with diabetes are up to two to four times as likely to have heart disease than people who don’t have diabetes, says the American Heart Association.

Some evidence suggests that drinking moderate amounts of red wine could lessen the risk of heart disease, but other sources caution people with diabetes against drinking, period.

So what’s the deal?

A few words on diabetes

More than 29 million people in the United States have diabetes. That’s nearly 1 in 10 people, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Most cases of the disease are type 2 diabetes — a condition in which the body doesn’t make enough insulin, uses insulin incorrectly, or both. This can cause high levels of sugar in the blood. People with type 2 diabetes must control this sugar, or blood glucose, with a combination of medications, like insulin, and lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise. Diet is key to diabetes management.

Found in many foods such as breads, starches, fruits, and sweets, carbohydrate is the macronutrient that causes blood sugar levels to go up. Managing carbohydrate intake helps people manage their blood sugar. But contrary to popular belief, alcohol may actually cause blood sugar levels to go down instead of up.

How red wine affects blood sugar

According to the American Diabetes Association, drinking red wine — or any alcoholic beverage — can lower blood sugar for up to 24 hours. Because of this, they recommend checking your blood sugar before you drink, while you drink, and monitoring it for up to 24 hours after drinking.

Intoxication and low blood sugar can share many of the same symptoms, so failing to check your blood glucose could cause others to assume you’re feeling the effects of an alcoholic beverage when in reality your blood sugar may be reaching dangerously low levels.

There’s another reason to be mindful of your blood sugar levels while drinking: Some alcoholic beverages, including drinks that use juice or a mixer high in sugar, can increase blood sugar.

Benefits of red wine for people with diabetes

Effects on blood sugar aside, there is some evidence that red wine might provide benefits to people with type 2 diabetes.

A recent study revealed that moderate red wine consumption (defined as one glass per day in this study) can reduce the risks of heart disease in people with well-controlled type 2 diabetes.

In the study, more than 200 participants were monitored for two years. One group had a glass of red wine each night with dinner, one had white wine, and the other had mineral water. All followed a healthy Mediterranean-style diet without any calorie restrictions.

After two years, the red wine group had higher levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or good cholesterol) than they did before, and lower cholesterol levels overall. They also saw benefits in glycemic control.

The researchers concluded that drinking moderate amounts of red wine in conjunction with a healthy diet can “modestly decrease” heart disease risks.

Older studies also reveal associations between moderate red wine intake and health benefits among type 2 diabetics, whether well-controlled or not. Benefits included improved post-meal blood sugar levels, better next morning fasting blood sugar levels, and improved insulin resistance. The review also points out that it may not be the alcohol itself, but rather components of the red wine, like polyphenols (health-promoting chemicals in foods) that confer the benefits.

The takeaway

Red wine is loaded with antioxidants and polyphenols and is credited with numerous potential health benefits when you drink it in moderate amounts. People with diabetes who choose to take advantage of these potential benefits should remember: Moderation is key, and timing of alcohol intake with food intake needs to be considered, especially for those on diabetes medicine.

Can Diabetics Drink Wine?

Wondering if a glass of red or white wine is OK to have with dinner? The American Diabetes Association (ADA) says yes, as long as you’re not pregnant and don’t have a history of alcohol abuse.

The ADA also recommends that you eat whenever you’re drinking an alcoholic beverage. Since alcohol can cause severe, life-threatening low blood sugar (even in people who don’t have diabetes), food is essential to help the body regulate blood glucose levels.
One study showed that moderate alcohol intake (no more than one drink a day) was associated with lower blood sugar levels and improved insulin sensitivity in healthy people without diabetes.
Another study showed that blood sugar levels didn’t differ for 12 hours after a meal between diabetic patients (both types 1 and 2) who drank a glass of wine with dinner (or a shot of vodka before dinner, or a shot of cognac after dinner) and those who drank an equal amount of water.
Finally, a number of studies have suggested that moderate alcohol intake may have a positive effect on blood cholesterol and lipid levels.
Just remember that alcohol calories should be included in your meal plan (one alcoholic drink is 1 fat exchange).
Reprinted from 101 Tips for Staying Healthy with Diabetes (and Avoiding Complications). Copyright by the American Diabetes Association. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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Alcohol and diabetes

For some people, having a few drinks at home or in the pub is part of everyday life. And having diabetes shouldn’t get in the way of this unless this has been advised on medical grounds.

But when you have diabetes, it’s a bit more complicated. You might want to know whether it’s safe to drink alcohol, and how much is OK.

So yes, you can still drink, but you need to be aware of how it can affect your body and how to manage this. For example, drinking can make you more likely to have a hypo, because alcohol interferes with your blood sugar levels. It can affect your weight too, as there can be a lot of calories in alcoholic drinks.

We’ll give you all the facts here.

Alcohol and risk factors for Type 2

There are several risk factors for Type 2 diabetes, these include your family history, age and ethnic background. We also know you’re more likely to develop it if you’re overweight.

Excess alcohol intake is associated with an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, but the relationship between alcohol and risk of Type 2 diabetes can be a little bit complicated and staying within government guidelines is the safest way to drink alcohol.

Alcohol can also contain a lot of calories, which can lead to putting on weight.

Take a look at our information about risk factors and find out your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

Government guidelines on alcohol units

To help keep health risks from alcohol at a low level, it’s safest not to regularly drink more than 14 units a week. These guidelines are the same for men and women. The guidelines also recommend that if you choose to drink up to 14 units a week, spread this over at least three days.

But what does this actually mean when you’re in the pub or having dinner with a glass of wine at home?

It means you shouldn’t drink more than six medium glasses of wine or six pints of lager a week.

But the size of the glass and type of alcohol affects the number of units, so it’s best to check the guidelines at drinkaware.co.uk

Alcohol and hypos

If you use insulin or some other diabetes medications like sulphonylureas, you’re more likely to have a hypo. Drinking alcohol can then add to this, because alcohol reduces your body’s ability to recover when blood sugar levels are dropping. Usually, the liver stores extra glucose which is released back into the blood when needed, such as when blood sugar levels drop. But alcohol stands in the way of the liver’s ability to do this effectively. If you’re not sure whether your medication can cause hypos or if they’re affected by alcohol, it’s best to speak to your healthcare team.

If you drink a lot or on an empty stomach, you’re even more likely to have a hypo.

Your risk of having a hypo doesn’t go away after you stop drinking – it increases, and can last up to 24 hours.

It’s not uncommon for some people to mistake having a hypo for being drunk. So carry hypo treatments around with you and always wear some medical ID. You should also make sure that whoever you’re with knows you have diabetes, and knows how to help with a hypo if you need them to.

Alcohol and your weight

Depending on what you like to drink, there can be a lot of calories in alcohol. So if you’re trying to lose weight, you may want to drink less.

Alcohol and carbohydrates

If you’re carb counting, drinking can make it a lot more tricky. While a lot of alcoholic drinks contain carbs, you might not need to take your usual mealtime amount of insulin to cover them. That’s because you’re more likely to get hypos.

It all depends on what you drink, how much you drink, and what else you’re doing while you’re drinking – like eating or dancing. So it’s best to talk to your healthcare team and get their advice.

The morning after you’ve been drinking

If you end up having one too many, drinking a pint of water before you go to bed will help keep you hydrated. If you’re lucky, it may also help prevent a hangover in the morning. If you do wake up with a hangover, it’ll still help to drink plenty of water.

And always have breakfast – it will help you manage your blood sugar. If you can’t face food or you’ve been sick, drink as many fluids as you can, including some sugary (non-diet) drinks if your blood sugar levels are low.

If you’ve got a blood sugar meter at home, check your levels regularly the next day. The symptoms of having a hypo are similar to feelings of a hangover, so you need to know if you’re having one. No matter how awful you feel, you need to treat a hypo straight away. Don’t ignore it.

If you take insulin, you might need to change your dose depending on what your levels are. Talk to your healthcare team about what you should be doing.

Types of drinks

If you’re going to drink, it’s good to be aware of all the facts so you can choose the types of drinks best for you:

  • Avoid low-sugar beers and cider – sometimes called diabetic drinks. They might have less sugar, but there’s more alcohol in them.
  • Avoid low-alcohol wines – these often have more sugar than normal ones. If you do choose these, just stick to a glass or two. Try to limit drinks with a lot of sugar, such as sweet sherries, sweet wines and liqueurs.

  • Have diet or sugar-free mixers with any spirits – if a friend gets one for you, make it clear what you need.

  • Some drinks like beers, ales and ciders contain carbs and will increase your blood sugar levels initially. Spirits, dry wines and Prosecco not so much, so these may be a better bet if you are concerned about the carbs in alcohol.

Other health risks

If you have diabetes, you should be aware of the other health risks around drinking. That way, you can help to avoid them by limiting how much you drink.

Here are a few things to watch out for:

  • A lot of heavy drinking can lead to raised blood pressure.
  • Alcohol can make neuropathy (nerve damage) worse.
  • It dehydrates your body and stops you sleeping properly.
  • It can also lead to certain cancers and heart disease.

Alcohol, fertility and pregnancy

Alcohol intake can affect fertility in men and women, so if you are trying for a baby it is important to cut back. For pregnant women the safest is not to drink alcohol at all during pregnancy. In particular, drinking alcohol during the first three months of pregnancy may increase the risk of a miscarriage. Excessive alcohol intake during pregnancy is never a good idea, and the more alcohol you drink the greater the risk to your baby. These risks include stillbirth, premature birth and foetal alcohol syndrome.

Alcohol and your emotions

Some people find that alcohol helps them deal with stress or when they’re feeling low. It might make you feel more relaxed, but it’s not a healthy way of managing these feelings.

Getting more active can really help if you’re stressed or feeling anxious. Starting a hobby with a friend, or doing something relaxing like having a long bath or reading a book can all help.

You can talk to your healthcare team about how you’re feeling, they’ll be able to give you more advice and support about what might help. Or you might prefer to talk to someone close to you, like a friend or family member.

Remember, you can get in touch with our helpline. They are there to listen and will be able to give you more advice.

Wine and Diabetes

Editor’s Note: This content has been verified by Marina Basina, MD, a Clinical Associate Professor at Stanford University. She’s a clinical endocrinologist and researcher with a focus on diabetes management and diabetes technology. Dr. Basina is an active member of multiple medical advisory boards and community diabetes organizations, and she is on the Beyond Type 1 Science Advisory Council.

Wine is a popular choice of alcohol among adults. If you have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, you can drink wine, but you should be aware of the particulars of this alcohol and how it might affect your blood sugar. Always check with your doctor if you are healthy enough to consume alcohol.

The alcohol content of wine ranges from 12-15%, and therefore, the serving size for wine is a smaller 5 oz.

Most red wines have less than 5 grams of carbs per serving. However, one 3.5 oz serving of dessert wine clocks in at 14 grams of carbs.

Check out the Beyond Type 1 drinking carb chart.

Don’t drink on an empty stomach

Not only will the alcohol inebriate you faster, after an initial spike, it will yank your BGLs down scary-fast. Having some carbohydrates in your stomach will prevent the kind of nosedive I experienced in Vernazza.


This is important for everyone, not just T1Ds. Drinking water — say, an 8oz. glass for every boozy drink — will dilute the alcohol in your bloodstream. If you’re drinking something sugary, like cheap white wine, the water will also help keep you from going too high.

Monitor BGLs closely

It might drive you high, it might drive you low: one way or another, alcohol is going to do funky stuff to your blood. To stay abreast of these changes, you should check your BGLs frequently.

Don’t be alone

Make sure you’re with somebody who can keep an eye on you, and make sure they know a thing or two about T1D. They should be able to identify the signs of hypoglycemia and know how to help you if you go too low.

Don’t overdo it

Alcohol is a neurotoxin, so handle it the way you’d handle a venomous snake, or not at all. Any kind of immoderation with alcohol is silly, and it’s thrice as bad for diabetics, who will have to deal with unpredictable BGLs while inebriated.

Wine has a great deal of mythology surrounding it, and occasionally you’ll see a headline like “Red Wine Benefits: 10 Reasons You Need a Glass Right Now” scuttle up your Facebook feed. There does seem to be some evidence that a moderate daily serving of dry red wine might help to stabilize BGLs, or at least won’t destabilize them.

Return to Beyond Type 1’s Alcohol and Diabetes Guide.

Best and Worst Drinks for Type 2 Diabetes

If you have type 2 diabetes, you know it’s important to watch what you eat — and the types of drinks you consume. Drinks that are high in carbohydrates and calories can affect both your weight and your blood sugar.

“Generally speaking, you want your calories and carbs to come from whole foods, not from drinks,” says Nessie Ferguson, RD, CDE, a nutritionist at the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.

The best drinks have either zero or very few calories, and deciding on a beverage isn’t really difficult. “When it comes right down to it, good beverage choices for type 2 diabetes are good choices for everyone,” she says.

Some good drinks for type 2 diabetes include:

  • Water
  • Fat-free or low-fat milk
  • Black coffee
  • Unsweetened tea (hot or iced)
  • Flavored water (zero calories) or seltzer

But sugary soda is one of the worst types of drinks for type 2 diabetes, according to the Mayo Clinic. The problems with soda include:

  • Empty calories. Soft drinks are very high in sugar, have zero nutritional value, and are often used in place of healthy drinks such as milk.
  • Cavities. The high sugar combined with the acid in soda dissolves tooth enamel, which increases the risk of cavities.
  • Weight gain. Sugary sodas have about 10 teaspoons of sugar per 12-ounce can.
  • Boosts risk of diabetes and risk of complications for those who have diabetes.

Some people with type 2 diabetes continue to drink alcohol, but you should be aware that any alcohol consumption may result in dangerously low blood sugar levels for up to 24 hours. That’s why it’s important to check your blood sugar often and get your doctor’s okay before you drink alcohol. People with diabetes should only consume alcohol if their diabetes is well controlled and should always wear a medical bracelet that says they have diabetes. Staying well-hydrated and only drinking alcohol on a full stomach are other ways to limit the effects drinking has on blood sugar levels.

The best alcoholic drinks for diabetes include:

  • Light beer and dry wines. These alcohol drinks have fewer calories and carbohydrates than other alcoholic drinks.
  • Liquor neat, on the rocks, or with a splash. By skipping the mixer, you’re eliminating any additional calories or carbohydrates and limiting the effect your drink will have on your blood sugar.
  • Sugar-free mixers for mixed drinks. Try diet tonic, lemon or lime juice, club soda or seltzer. These mixers will not raise your blood sugar.

Whatever your poison, drink only in moderation. Findings show drinking moderate amounts of alcohol may lower the risk of diabetes. Mayo Clinic defines moderate alcohol use as one drink a day for women and men older than age 65, and up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger.

What counts as one drink?

  • 12 fluid ounces of beer
  • 5 fluid ounces of wine
  • 1.5 fluid ounces of hard liquor

A study published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine suggests that moderate wine intake, particularly red wine, may be part of a heart healthy diet among those with well-controlled diabetes.

Here are some of the best drinks to quench your thirst, as well as a few drinks you should avoid with diabetes.

Next read:  iPhone Glucometer: Digital Technology for Seniors with Diabetes

A recent study on adults and their risk of developing prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes in conjunction with alcohol consumption showed that low or medium consumption of alcohol (beer, wine, and spirits) actually decreased the risk in women. For men, the results were a little more straightforward: the general consumption of alcohol, especially in higher amounts, increased of prediabetes risk measurably. But a new study brings into question whether or not wine, a long-standard part of many American and European diets, may actually help people with prediabetes and diabetes to improve their health.

Prediabetes and a Glass of Wine a Day

According to the study, which was reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2015, people with diabetes who drank one glass of red or white wine a night (as opposed to a glass of mineral water) saw health benefits and an improvement in measurements associated with diabetes. Red wine drinkers, especially, saw significant improvements in both diabetes-related issues and heart health. (White wine drinkers saw an improvement in their triglyceride levels, but red wine drinkers saw an improvement in cholesterol and lipid, or fat, metabolism.) The wine drinkers overall saw that, after two years of drinking one glass of wine a night, they had fewer signs of metabolic syndrome, which can include high blood sugar and hypertension.

This study only focused on people with diabetes, and many other studies show the benefits of wine drinking on people without the disease, but there is little conclusive evidence on the effects of wine drinking on people with prediabetes. However, the health goal for those with prediabetes is to prevent the development of full-fledged diabetes. This means that efforts should focus on lowering blood glucose levels and regulating overall health to ensure proper insulin levels and pancreatic health. If regular wine consumption (especially red wine) works for those with a more severe form of the disease, it is possible that it can help those with prediabetes stave off the development of diabetes.

The Caveats

This study only shows promising results for those who have well-managed glucose levels. This means that those who have just been diagnosed or are not managing their disease well will not get these benefits, and wine (or any alcoholic beverage) may make glucose levels harder to control. One of the first priorities of a senior with diabetes or prediabetes is to get blood glucose levels under control, which will protect overall health. Drinking wine without regulating blood glucose and overall health can be dangerous.

The above study also noted that participants drank just one glass of red or white wine per day. That indicates the importance of moderation. Seniors with prediabetes and diabetes may not receive any benefits, and they may risk seriously endangering their health, via overindulgence. In fact, those with prediabetes will actually significantly increase the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by drinking heavily. Drinking moderately, controlling glucose levels, and informing doctors of regular drinking habits are important ways of making sure the benefits of wine (and not the drawbacks) are experienced.

Diabetes and Alcohol in General

People with diabetes should not believe that diabetes is a ban on drinking. It is a ban on excessive drinking and requires more careful planning than for people without diabetes. Choosing only one (or maybe two, but not more!) drinks a day, paired with food and water to prevent dehydration or irregularities in blood glucose, can be a perfectly healthy way to enjoy what many consider to be a very pleasurable activity. Some types of alcohol, such as red wine, are actually proven to help prevent other physical ailments such as heart disease. This is happy news for seniors with diabetes, especially those whose habits run to a glass or two of wine a week. This low, healthy consumption can actually promote physical health, and the pleasure of sipping a delicious alcoholic beverage may even help promote emotional health and happiness.


Scientists have found . But does it matter what type of alcohol you prefer? According to a new study, published in the Journal of Diabetes Investigation, the data suggests wine holds a big advantage over beer and spirits.

Diabetes is the seventh-leading cause of death in America, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. With over 29 million Americans affected by the disease, researchers are have long searched for new ways to reduce its spread. Multiple studies over the past few decades have shown that moderate alcohol consumption has the potential to mitigate both the risks and the symptoms of type 2 diabetes.

In the new study, researchers from Wuhan University and Huazhong University of Science and Technology (both located in Wuhan, China) went a step further by analyzing the effects of wine, beer and spirits, respectively, on the risk of developing the chronic disease. They conducted a meta-analysis of 13 existing studies, all of which identified the risk estimates between specific alcoholic beverage (wine, beer or liquor) consumption and the incidence of type 2 diabetes. The collective data included 397,296 participants and 20,641 cases of type 2 diabetes.

To make sense of the data, the researchers converted all measurements of alcohol consumption to grams per day. According to U.S. health agencies, a “standard” drink contains 14 grams of pure alcohol. This is equivalent to a 12-ounce Budweiser, a 5-ounce glass of cool-climate Pinot Noir or a 2-ounce shot of whiskey. The scientists defined moderate consumption as 20 to 30 grams per day for beer and wine and 7 to 15 grams per day for spirits.

After analyzing all this data, they confirmed that with all three categories of drinks, moderate consumption was linked with a decreased risk of type 2 diabetes. However, the size of this decrease varied depending on the type of booze. Liquor drinkers saw a 5 percent risk reduction, while beer drinkers’ risk was lowered by 9 percent. And wine drinkers? They saw a 20 percent reduction of risk.

The researchers also found that for beer and spirits drinkers, the benefits of alcohol only go so far. Once beer consumption surpassed 80 grams per day or spirits consumption topped 23 grams per day, the risk of type 2 diabetes actually increased. They did not find the same effect with wine.

The scientists explain wine’s markedly higher protective effects and lack of increased risk with two ideas. They hypothesize that resveratrol, a polyphenol heralded for its many potential health benefits, may contribute to a more effective risk reduction. Previous studies have found that resveratrol may lower blood glucose levels. The researchers also note, however, that wine drinkers tend to reside in a higher economic bracket, which is associated with a decreased risk of type 2 diabetes.

While the study’s findings are strong, based on a large sample size, scientists have yet to prove a direct link between having a drink and a lower risk of diabetes. But the data suggests that it’s a worthwhile topic to pursue in the lab.

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