According to the American Diabetes Association, over 37 million Americans were suspected of having diabetes, whether diagnosed or undiagnosed, in 2019. In 2017, the estimated direct medical costs associated with diabetes were $237 million. Living with diabetes can present significant financial, social and personal burdens, and knowing how to manage diabetes effectively can help you feel empowered to limit these burdensome effects.
Related: LivingWell with Diabetes
Many people believe that living with diabetes means opting out of certain foods and beverages entirely. However, you might enjoy drinking alcoholic beverages like beer. If you're wondering whether or not it's still possible to enjoy a beer when you have diabetes, the answer is yes—but it's important to know how to do so safely.
Beer is a significant source of carbohydrates, so it can impact blood sugar. Depending on the brand, it can also be high in fat which can alter how long it takes for the sugars to enter your bloodstream. Because of this, it's essential to be mindful when consuming alcoholic beverages like beer when you have diabetes.
In this article, we'll discuss the nutrition of beer, how it impacts your blood sugar levels and things to keep in mind so you can enjoy it in moderation.
Beer is a staple throughout the year, from fall football season to holidays to the fourth of July. It can even be used in various recipes to give a distinctive flavor–bread, soups and braised meats can all include beer. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, one serving of beer is considered to be 12 ounces and 5% alcohol.
A 12-oz can of beer has, on average, per the USDA:
Interestingly, beer also contains very small amounts of vitamins and minerals such as B vitamins, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. Since it has nearly one carb serving (15 grams of carbs = one carb choice for carb-counting purposes), beer could significantly affect blood sugar and must be treated accordingly.
When you live with diabetes, your body has trouble getting sugar into your bloodstream to be utilized by the cells in your body. This can lead to your blood having too much sugar, also called hyperglycemia, which can damage organs and body tissues. When people without diabetes consume sugar, it is rapidly absorbed and utilized by the body. Their pancreas secretes insulin to help the sugar enter the body's cells, where it is used for energy.
Drinking alcohol can cause hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, so it's essential to keep this in mind if you plan on drinking. You'll need to know how and be prepared to treat low blood sugar if it does occur.
Symptoms of low blood sugar can often be similar to being affected by alcohol. These symptoms include:
Drinking in moderation and monitoring your blood sugar are wise moves to ensure you're not experiencing hypoglycemia. It's also best practice to keep a form of identification on you that says that you have diabetes if you need medical assistance and are unconscious. There are bracelets, keychains, necklaces or even tattoos that can have this information in an emergency.
Yes, you can drink beer safely if you have diabetes, but it's not without risks. Drinking any form of alcohol can affect your blood sugar levels, so you need to limit your intake to what is safe for you by knowing your own limits.
You should also be aware of the symptoms of hypoglycemia and be mindful that they are similar to a drunken state. It's a good idea to alert anyone you are enjoying alcohol with of what to be on the lookout for, so they can help or get you help should the need arise.
The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend females limit their daily alcohol intake to one drink a day and males limit their intake to two. In the case of beer, one 12-ounce can is considered one drink. If you abide by these guidelines, consuming alcohol is safe when living with diabetes.
Studies show that consuming alcoholic beverages of any kind excessively increases your risk for chronic diseases such as heart disease, liver disease and kidney disease. When you live with a chronic condition already, it is wise to take this into account and take the current recommendations to drink moderately seriously.
If you are going to consume alcohol, it's a good idea to consume it with food. This will be better for your blood sugar than drinking on an empty stomach. Be sure to stay hydrated by drinking water with your beer, too.
Related: Can You Drink Wine If You Have Diabetes?
People with diabetes have to take special care with what they consume. Foods and beverages with significant carbohydrates can alter blood sugar, so it's important to eat them in moderation and be mindful while enjoying them.
Many people have the perception that alcoholic beverages like beer and diabetes cannot mix, but this is not the case. While ideally alcohol would be avoided or only had on occasion, you can drink regularly when you have diabetes as long as you do so in moderation. That's a limit of one to two 12-ounce beer(s) per day.
If you notice you are experiencing symptoms like dizziness, slurred speech, confusion or feeling sleepy after drinking, you may be experiencing hypoglycemia. Talk with your health care provider to make sure you have a game plan should this occur. They will likely recommend keeping glucose tablets or other quickly-absorbed forms of sugar on hand in case you need it, but again your doctor will be able to recommend a plan that's tailored to your specific treatment needs.


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