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.

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 medicines, 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.

The following chart shows serving sizes for different types of alcoholic beverages. It also lists the number of calories and grams of carbohydrate per serving of each beverage.

Serving sizes for different types of alcoholic beverages
Amount   Type  Calories  Carbohydrate Content
12 ounces beer (4.5 percent alcohol) 150 13 g
12 ounces light beer (2.8 to 3.5 percent alcohol) 75 to 100 5 g
1 1/2 ounces whiskey, scotch, gin, vodka, rum, brandy, tequila (86 percent proof) 100 less than 1 g
5 ounces dry red wine, rose wine (12.2 percent alcohol) 85 less than 1 g
2 ounces dry sherry (17 percent alcohol) 80 2 g
4 ounces sweet kosher wine (11 percent alcohol) 130 12 g
2 ounces muscatel, sweet sherry port (17 percent alcohol) 95 7 g
1 ounce sweet or dry vermouth (12.6 percent alcohol) 35 4 g
4 ounces Champagne (11 percent alcohol) 100 4 g
12 ounces wine cooler (5 percent alcohol) 215 30 g
Note: 12 ounces of non-alcoholic beer contain 60 calories.
Note: 4 ounces of non-alcoholic wine contain 30 calories.

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Basic Skills for Living with Diabetes, sixth edition
First Published: 11/27/2006
Last Reviewed: 10/23/2019

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.