The year 2020 has created lots of temptation to refill the wine glass. The combination of a pandemic and polemic politics have produced anxiety for lots of people. It’s no wonder people are turning to “quarantinis” more so than ever before. It’s therefore no surprise that alcohol consumption has risen during the pandemic, according to a survey of 1,000 Americans. But considering that moderate alcohol consumption has been shown in research studies to offer health benefits—including a lower risk of chronic disease burden—is it safe for people with diabetes to enjoy a drink to cope with stress?
If you are living with diabetes and doing your best to manage it, the best advice on drinking is to follow the same school of thought for people that don’t have diabetes: limit your consumption to just one drink.
A new study from the Journal of the American Heart Association suggests that people with diabetes who have 8 or more drinks a week are 60% more likely to have high blood pressure. And not only did the imbibing study participants who drank more than moderately have higher blood pressure, they were more likely to have more severe high blood pressure.
In light of these findings, is it safe for people with diabetes to enjoy just one drink per day. The answer isn’t a simple yes or no. If you have diabetes and you closely monitor your blood sugar levels with the latest apps and your doctor says that it’s ok to have a drink, go for it. But if you notice that even one glass of wine or beer drives your blood glucose to an abnormally high level, you should either skip drinking altogether or fine tune your diet.
For example, eating a small portion of healthy fat and/or protein just before enjoying a glass of wine may prevent severe blood glucose spikes. Avocado, nuts and seeds, unprocessed cheese, olives and lean, minimally-processed meat (sorry, no cold cuts) are examples of healthy fats and proteins.
But if you want the best health outcomes, it may be wise to forgo alcohol altogether, or at least take at least a few days off from drinking every week. That’s because even moderate drinking (no more than one alcoholic beverage per day) has been linked to higher blood pressure and cardiovascular dysfunction.
The new study on alcohol consumption and diabetes isn’t exactly groundbreaking. For over a century, researchers have known about the link between heavy drinking and high blood pressure. What makes the new research novel is that few studies have examined the association between diabetes and light-to-moderate drinking’s effects on high blood pressure.
Researchers pooled data from 2001-2005 on more than 10,000 adults with type 2 diabetes around the United States and Canada, the majority of which were men, and whose average age was 63. Because the study wasn’t a gold-standard double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized clinical trial, the findings aren’t proof of causation. In other words, the research doesn’t show direct cause-and-effect.
If you have type 2 diabetes and you want to keep enjoying alcohol while watching your health, limit your consumption to no more than one drink per day. To be extra cautious about high blood pressure, take a day or two off from drinking every week.