Skip to main content


Basic Skills for Living with Diabetes

Skip section navigation

Diabetes health tip

Diabetes: Sorting fact from fiction
Diabetes is a serious illness. To help contain this leading cause of disability and death, it’s important to separate fact from fiction.

More diabetes health tips...

Diabetes Lipids Class
Gain practical information and plan how to lower your cholesterol in 6 to 12 weeks.

Diabetes and alcohol

Alcohol is a source of calories, much like fat in the diet, so it can cause weight gain. It is not converted into glucose, but it can affect blood glucose levels.


If you take insulin or a sulfonylurea, having more than one or two alcoholic drinks is risky behavior! It can cause severe hypoglycemia, especially if you haven't eaten.

Alcohol lowers blood glucose and can put you at risk for hypoglycemia. This happens because alcohol prevents the liver from releasing glucose. The symptoms of hypoglycemia and drunkenness can be similar.

If you are taking medications, check with your health care provider about alcohol. If he or she says that you can drink alcohol, you can include it in your food plan as long as you follow these safe guidelines:

  • Drink alcohol only when glucose levels are in good control.
  • Never drink alcohol on an empty stomach. Drink alcohol with a meal or snack that contains carbohydrates.
  • Limit your alcohol to no more than one to two drinks a day.
  • Examples of one drink with minimal carbohydrates are:
    • 12 ounces of light beer
    • 4 ounces of dry wine
    • 1-1/2 ounces whiskey, gin, scotch, vodka, etc.
  • Examples of drinks with higher amounts of carbohydrates are:
    • wine coolers
    • regular beer
    • margaritas
    • liqueurs
    • hard liquor with regular pop or fruit juice
  • Limit alcohol when you are trying to lose weight.
  • Wear a medical identification bracelet that says you have diabetes.
  • Do not overeat, it can cause hyperglycemia.
  • Do not drink alcohol if you are pregnant.


Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Basic Skills for Living with Diabetes, fifth edition, ISBN 1-931876-32-0

First published: 12/01/2006
Last updated: 10/20/2011

Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts