Updated 23 March 2017

Should diabetics drink at all?

Should diabetics drink is a tough question to answer, as there seems to be widely differing views on this topic.


Some doctors feel that one drink a day or on a social occasion can do little harm, but others feel that it is probably easier not to drink at all, than to try and do so in moderation. Excessive alcoholic consumption can have dire consequences for diabetics, as many alcoholic drinks contain high sugar and hence can play havoc with blood glucose levels.

The other dangers include becoming less mindful of what you eat while you are intoxicated and also not sticking to your medication regimen. The other danger is that the symptoms of intoxication and that of hypoglycaemia are similar. The dangers of these two being confused, are obvious.

If you do decide, in conjunction with your doctor, to drink in moderation, there are some general rules to observe:

  • Steer clear of mixed drinks, as their sugar content is often high and if you did not mix them yourself, you don’t really know how concentrated they are.
  • Any sweetened fortified drinks like sherries and ports, cocktails, liquers or dark beers should be avoided.
  • Red wine, dry white wine, dry sherry, dry light beers and spirits like whiskey, gin and vodka are probably acceptable in extreme moderation. These are best if mixed with diet drinks.
  • Any neat and undiluted spirits should be avoided owing to the high alcohol concentration.
  • It is best to drink during or after a meal, to avoid hypoglycaemia.
  • Rather avoid something if you are not sure what it contains.
  • Stick to a single drink per day, but only if this has been cleared by your doctor. If your doctor advises that you should take no alcohol at all, there is a reason for it.
  • Never drink on your own.

- (Health24, November 2007)


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Dr. May currently works as a fulltime endocrinologist and has been in private practice since 2004. He has a variety of interests, predominantly obesity and diabetes, but also sees patients with osteoporosis, thyroid disorders, men's health disorders, pituitary and adrenal disorders, polycystic ovaries, and disorders of growth. He is a leading member of several obesity and diabetes societies and runs a trial centre for new drugs.

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