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Diet: Alcohol and Diabetes

Por Nina Nazor Robles* -

Alcohol consumption is popular worldwide. Drinking excessively can lead to serious health problems, especially if you have diabetes. A drink with a meal once in a while, won’t normally affect your glucose level. But if you want to drink alcohol and have diabetes, there are some things you should take into account.

Glucose and alcohol

If you have diabetes, the amount of alcohol you consume can either raise or lower your blood sugar. There are many factors that contribute to the raising or lowering of your blood sugar such as the amount of alcohol you consume, whether the drinks contain additional sugar or fruit juices, whether you drink them with food, and whether you have a chronic drinking problem or drink excessively. Alcohol can also increase the action of insulin and other medications, which can cause your blood sugar to drop too low.
Be aware that the symptoms for intoxication (dizziness, unsteadiness, and confusion, among others) are very similar to those for hypoglycemia. Therefore, you must be careful when you drink. If you become hypoglycemic, people may mistake it for intoxication and not provide you the treatment you need, putting your health and your life at risk.

Consult your doctor

Alcohol may interact with some medications. Ask your doctor if you can drink, how much, and in what circumstances.

How much to drink?

According to American dietary recommendations, men should not drink more than 2 glasses or shots a day. Women shouldn’t have more than 1 drink a day. The same recommendations apply to people with diabetes. Pregnant women should not drink alcohol at all, nor should people suffering from pancreatitis, high triglyceride levels, or other diabetes-related complications.

Know the serving sizes

The amounts equaling 1 drink are given below. Each provides 15 grams of alcohol.
One drink is equal to:

  • One 12 ounce (360 ml) glass of beer
  • 5 ounces (150 ml) of wine
  • 1.5 ounces (45 ml) of other kinds of alcohol such as vodka, whisky, gin, tequila, and brandy, among others.


Excessive alcohol consumption is a serious problem that affects many people, including diabetics. Alcohol abuse (having 3 alcoholic drinks or more a day) can affect the body’s glucose control mechanism and may lead to complications.
In comparison to non-drinkers and moderate drinkers, alcohol abusers exhibit complications associated with diabetes earlier in life. These complications include sexual dysfunction, strokes, embolisms, and loss of sensation in the feet, which can result in amputation.


  •  If your diabetes is under control, you can ask your doctor about drinking alcoholic beverages. If your doctor approves, don’t exceed the recommendation of no more than 1 drink a day for women and no more than 2 drinks a day for men.
  • Avoid hypoglycemia by drinking only when eating. This applies to drinking liquor, wine or beer. Also, don’t exceed the recommended daily limits. When drinking, make sure you are eating balanced meals containing animal products, cereals, and vegetables.
  • Check your drink for ingredients that may raise your glucose level too high. Try to use diet soft drinks or mineral water, rather than fruit juices or cordials, as mixers.
  • Lastly, if you have a drinking problem, seek professional help. Contact Alcoholics Anonymous before putting your and your family’s well-being at risk.


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