How do alcoholic drinks affect glucose levels?

Alcohol

Alcohol is made from fermenting carbohydrate (sugars and starches) in different food products such as grapes (wine), apples (cider), barley (beer), and potato (vodka), for example. The alcohol itself can interfere with your liver’s ability to process glucose, especially overnight and increase your risk of hypoglycaemia (hypo) because less glucose is being released from the liver.  

Raised glucose levels

The naturally present carbohydrates or added sugars in a drink will raise glucose levels while you are drinking. You may also be eating a meal, perhaps a restaurant or takeaway meal, or extra snacks like nuts/crisps at a bar, so you may notice an extra rise in your glucose levels. 

Risk of hypo

There is an extra risk of hypo if you are also more active when you have been drinking, for example, you go dancing or have sex. We need to know both how much carbohydrate there is in our drinks and the alcohol content to understand the way our glucose levels are affected. 

Click on or hover over these drinks to see how much CHO there is in each:

Mulled Wine 

Medium glass (175ml)
3O grams

Cocktails

Various (125ml - 200ml) glass
up to 40 grams

Pimms with Lemonade

(250ml) tumbler
25 grams

Whiskey 

Single Measure (25ml)
O grams

Red Wine

medium glass (175ml)
trace

Beer

(1Pint)
10 grams

Click on the item below for more information:

The drinks with a higher CHO content will cause the glucose levels to rise higher while you are drinking. But because of the increased risk of hypoglycaemia (see next section) it is not usually necessary to count the carbohydrate content of alcoholic drinks when estimating your insulin doses. Things that are more likely to affect your glucose when you are drinking are the foods you might eat (eg snacks in a bar or takeaway meal) so you will consider the insulin needed for these and you will need to count the carbohydrates in ordinary sugary soft drinks like lemonade, colas and fruit juice if you are also drinking those.

Some people find that they consistently get higher glucose readings after drinking. If this is a pattern for you, you may find giving an insulin dose can help to compensate for the carbohydrate content, but be cautious – give no more than half the amount you calculate according to your ratio and ask your local diabetes team for personal guidance.

1 thought on “How do alcoholic drinks affect glucose levels?”

  1. Being a type 1 diabetic who has been warned not to drink alcohol this is only of limited value to me but it is interesting that CHO alcohol drinks do not necessarily have similar results to CHO in food.

Leave a Reply

Scroll to Top