Updated on April 3, 2024
4 min read

How Alcohol Lowers and Raises Blood Sugar

How Does Alcohol Lower Blood Sugar?

If there’s too much alcohol in the body, the liver can have trouble producing and breaking down glucose. It results in the body’s inability to regain blood sugar levels.

This effect can lead to hypoglycemia, a condition with a lower blood sugar level than the standard range. It can cause severe consequences like:

  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Disorientation
  • Sleepiness
  • Blurry vision
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Lack of balance or coordination
  • Unconsciousness
  • Coma
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How long does alcohol affect blood sugar?

On average, one alcoholic drink can stay in the blood for 12 hours. However, this can vary depending on a few factors, including:

  • The amount of alcohol consumed 
  • The type of alcoholic drink
  • The sugar content of the alcoholic beverage

The higher the sugar content of the alcoholic beverage, the longer it affects blood sugar levels.

Alcohol’s Connection with Blood Sugar and Diabetes

The liver plays a crucial role in balancing your blood sugar levels, which is critical when a person has diabetes. Meanwhile, alcohol can affect how your liver functions.

Your liver will remove alcohol from your blood instead of regulating the hormones that maintain blood sugar levels. This effect can be dangerous if you have diabetes and take insulin.

How Can Alcohol Affect Diabetes?

If you have diabetes, moderate drinking can cause your blood sugar to rise, and excessive drinking can lower it, leading to hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia.

Hyperglycemia happens when you have too much sugar in your blood. On the other hand, hypoglycemia occurs when there’s not enough sugar.

If left untreated, these conditions can lead to several health problems, including:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Kidney damage
  • Skin conditions
  • Nerve damage
  • Eye damage
  • Depression
  • Hearing damage
  • Alzheimer's disease

Can You Drink Alcohol if You’re Diabetic?

Medical professionals do not recommend drinking alcohol if you have diabetes, but mocktails are an excellent alternative beverage. You are at higher risk of health problems due to alcohol’s effects on blood sugar levels and its interactions with diabetes medications.

People living with diabetes who would like to drink alcohol should speak with their doctors first.  Healthcare professionals can best determine the options available.


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What is Blood Sugar?

Blood sugar or blood glucose is the sugar found in your blood. It is the source of energy that composes tissue and muscles and fuels your brain.

The blood sugar level is the amount of sugar in your blood during a specific time. Food and drinks can affect it.

Your body regulates blood sugar to keep it from getting too high or too low. However, people with diabetes will have difficulty controlling this.

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Other Problems Related to Alcohol and Diabetes

If you have diabetes, drinking alcohol may lead to overeating and unhealthy food choices. Alcohol stimulates a person's appetite and may cause a further increase in blood sugar levels. 

People with diabetes who are also alcohol users have an increased risk of suffering severe physical health conditions.

Here are some examples of health problems related to alcohol and diabetes:

  • Erectile dysfunction or impotence: Difficulty getting and keeping an erection
  • Peripheral neuropathy: A condition that causes nerve damage and leads to numbness, loss of sensation, and pain in the extremities
  • Retinopathy: An eye condition that can lead to blindness
  • Diabetic ketoacidosis: A diabetic condition that uses fat for energy, releasing a harmful substance called ketones
  • Heart disease: The leading cause of death in people with type 2 diabetes
  • Hypertriglyceridemia: Happens when triglyceride levels are elevated

5 Tips for Managing Diabetes & Alcohol Consumption

The best way to manage your diabetes and alcohol consumption is to speak with your doctor. They can give you personalized advice based on your condition and drinking habits.

Here are some tips that can also help:

  1. Limit drinking alcohol and discuss the amount of alcohol you consume with your healthcare provider
  2. Never drink on an empty stomach or when your blood sugar levels are low
  3. Choose light beer over heavy craft beers
  4. Avoid sugary drinks
  5. Read the labels and pay attention to the nutritional content of every drink you consume
  6. Avoid mixing heavy alcohol with sugary drinks

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How to Cut Back on Alcohol

If you are drinking alcohol every day, it is a good idea to cut back to prevent developing an alcohol use disorder (AUD). This is especially true if you drink more than one or two drinks daily.

Here are several tips to help you reduce your alcohol intake:

  • Set realistic goals on limiting or quitting alcohol
  • Make a plan for how to quit
  • Avoid having easy access to alcohol
  • Keep track of your drinks
  • Replace alcohol with other drinks
  • Distract yourself with other activities
  • Practice saying no to drinks or drinking activities
  • Ask for support from friends and family


Your blood sugar levels can get lowered when you drink alcohol. This happens when alcohol affects how your body processes and regulates blood sugar.

Alcohol can also make blood sugar levels rise or fall. This leads to hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia.

If these changes in blood sugar levels aren’t addressed, it can lead to adverse health consequences. You should also avoid mixing alcohol with diabetes medicines because these can interact and further decrease blood sugar levels.

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Updated on April 3, 2024
8 sources cited
Updated on April 3, 2024
  1. Emanuele et al. "Consequences of Alcohol Use in Diabetics." National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 1998.

  2. Diabetes Quick Facts.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020.

  3. What Is Diabetes?Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020.

  4. "Alcohol & Diabetes." Diabetes.org, American Diabetes Association.

  5. "Mixing Alcohol with Your Diabetes." Johns Hopkins University.

  6. Leggio et al. “Blood glucose level, alcohol heavy drinking, and alcohol craving during treatment for alcohol dependence: results from the Combined Pharmacotherapies and Behavioral Interventions for Alcohol Dependence (COMBINE) Study.” Alcoholism, clinical and experimental research, 2009.

  7. "What Is Type 1 Diabetes?" Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2021.

  8. "Type 2 Diabetes." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2021.

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