Beer, Sugar and Diabetes: Three Misconceptions That Will Surprise You

men at bar

Beer, Sugar and Diabetes: Three Misconceptions That Will Surprise You

When talking with a client about how to manage their diabetes, drinking alcohol, specifically beer, is probably one of the most common questions that I am asked right after “can I still eat bananas?” People are often surprised (and relieved) to learn what is and is NOT recommended. 

Here’s a brief rundown of the top three misconceptions about alcohol/beer and diabetes.  

Misconception 1 - It’s never okay to consume alcohol while living with diabetes.

The thing is, while small to moderate amounts of alcohol may cause blood sugar to rise slightly, excess alcohol can actually decrease your blood sugar level up to 24 hours after drinking, causing low blood sugar. You see, signs of low blood sugar can include sweating, slurred speech, weakness, increased heart rate and nausea, unfortunately, these symptoms closely resemble what someone might feel like when they have had too much to drink or are hungover.  

That’s why the list, 10 ways to guard you against low blood sugar, was created for the new “Your Guide to Diabetes and Beer” resource, developed as a collaboration between Diabetes Canada and Beer Canada. This information is vital for people living with diabetes to keep in mind.

Misconception 2 - Beer is especially off limits because it’s “full of carbohydrates (sugar)”.

I think because everyone knows there are carbohydrates (sugar) in beer it’s assumed as fact that people living with diabetes can no longer consume beer because it will “drastically” increase blood sugar. 

If you’re curious to know how many carbs are in your beer, see the below. Remember though, the carbohydrate in beer is not counted as part of your meal and does not require additional insulin.

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Misconception 3 – Moderate alcohol consumption guidelines no longer apply.

According to Diabetes Canada, “as a general rule, there is no need to avoid alcohol because you have diabetes”. However, this is not true for every person. It is essential you always consult your healthcare provider about alcohol and your health, particularly if you are living with diabetes. 

What exactly is moderate alcohol consumption?

Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines state:
For Women: No more than 2 standard drinks daily no more than 10 per week.
For Men: No more than 3 standard drinks per day for men or more than 15 per week.

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Final thoughts...

The goal of sharing this information is to empower people with diabetes to stay safe and manage their diabetes while still enjoying their favourite food and drink. There is a lot to consider when drinking while living with diabetes, which is why it’s always recommended to consult with your health care provider or diabetes educator to receive personalized advice based on your lifestyle and medication regimen. 

If you or someone you know and love is living with diabetes, share this blog with them, you never know who might need a refresher! 

Also! Download "Your Guide to Diabetes and Beer", a joint resource from Diabetes Canada and Beer Canada. 

Kortney Patriquin is a registered dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator located in Miramichi, New Brunswick. She is co-chair of the Diabetes, Obesity and Cardiovascular Network of Dietitians of Canada. 

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