Diabetes Alcohol Blackouts
Is Alcohol Off-Limits? There are plenty of reasons to avoid drinking alcohol, starting with the obvious: inebriation and addiction. But assuming you’re a responsible drinker is there room for alcohol in your diet if you have diabetes? Most experts agree that the answer is a qualified yes. Alcohol may even have some benefits in terms of preventing cardiovascular problems associated with diabetes.
A Harvard study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in early 2002 found that women who have a few alcoholic drinks over the course of a week stand an almost 15 percent lower chance of developing high blood pressure than nondrinking women. Other studies in both men and women have shown that alcohol raises HDL (good”) cholesterol and thins the blood slightly, protecting against the formation of clots that can cause a heart attack or stroke.
Drawbacks of drinking
There are a number of caveats. In the recent Harvard study, women who had more than about 1½ drinks a day had a 30 percent higher risk of elevated blood pressure than non-drinkers did. Furthermore, alcohol impacts people with diabetes more significantly than non-diabetics. The main threat is hypoglycemia. Alcohol is processed in the liver which also stores and releases glucose. Result: Wine, beer and spirits hinder the livers ability to release glucose, which can lead to hypoglycemia as much as a day after you drink. Moreover, symptoms of hypoglycemia mimic those of inebriation, making the danger harder to spot.
Another consideration is that alcoholic drinks have seven calories per gram—almost as much as fat—but provide no nutrition, making them a poor choice if you’re trying to lose weight. And if you’re taking medication, alcohol may be out of the question.
Should you drink? Talk it over with your doctor or dietitian. If you get the okay to imbibe, here are some basic guide lines to keep in mind.
Keep it to one. Most studies find few risks and possible benefits from one drink a day or less. “One drink” is defined as a 12-ounce beer, 5 ounces of wine (about a half cup), or a 1½-ounce shot of distilled spirits, such as scotch, whiskey, or vodka (mix only with sugar-free soda or water).
Eat something. Food slows the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream, allowing the liver to better process glucose while handling the alcohol. Also try to nurse your drink over a couple of hours to further ease the burden on your liver.
Sidestep the sweet stuff. In addition to their calories from alcohol, sweet wines and liqueurs pack extra amounts of carbohydrate. Likewise, sugary sodas and other sweet mixers added to distilled spirits can boost the calorie quotient.
Exchange cautiously. As a rule, doctors and dietitians would prefer that you not drop a nutritious item from your meal plan to make room for alcohol. But for the record, alcoholic drinks (except for beer) count as two fat exchanges, which may be consistent with your dietary goals. Beer counts as one and a half fat exchanges and one starch exchange.