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Alcohol and Prediabetes

August 27, 2018
Alcohol and Prediabetes: Risks of Drinking - Lark Health

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What are the risks of consuming alcohol when you have prediabetes?

When you have prediabetes, you should be aware of the amount and type of alcoholic beverages you drink. Alcohol can interfere with the actions of insulin and lead to higher blood sugar levels – but sometimes it has the opposite effect and can actually decrease your blood sugar to dangerously low levels. According to research published in Biomolecules, alcohol can affect carbohydrate metabolism, especially when consumed in excess.

Alcohol and Prediabetes Interaction

Drinking alcoholic beverages can have some additional effects to be aware of:

  • Alcohol lowers your inhibition ("relaxes" you) so you may have trouble saying no to unhealthy foods that you would normally not eat: think about bar snacks and restaurant foods especially!
  • Alcohol increases appetite, so you feel hungrier and may eat more. Alcohol first spikes your blood sugar then brings it down when you stop drinking, leading you to crave carbs and other foods high in sugar.
  • Many mixed drinks have high amounts of sugar from juice and soda. This can raise your blood sugar.
  • Alcohol and alcoholic beverages are high in calories. They can interfere with weight loss or weight control efforts on your part. Alcohol is metabolized before food, so the food that you eat while drinking alcohol turns into fat. 
  • Alcohol slows your metabolism of food, so while you sleep you're more likely to turn dinner and snacks into new fat deposits.

Harvard School of Public Health warns that excessive alcohol consumption can be associated with obesity.

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Tips for drinking alcohol if you have prediabetes

The recommendations for drinking alcohol when you have prediabetes are similar to the recommendations for healthy adults – be cautious! According to the Linus Pauling Institute, moderate intake of alcohol can improve the insulin response and lower risk for type 2 diabetes, but drinking too much can have the opposite effect. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest staying under 2 drinks per day if you are male, and under 1 drink per day if you are female. These are some other tips for drinking while trying to lose weight:

  • Never drink on an empty stomach: plan to have at least a light, healthy snack while you drink, or a healthy meal, to stave off hunger after drinking.
  • While alcohol itself is high in calories, you can add to it by putting sugary sodas and juices in.
  • Keep filling, low carb snacks nearby such as avocado or cashews. 

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