Alcohol and Diabetes

In the UK, diabetes affects around 2.3 million people, and it’s thought there are at least half a million more people who have the condition but are not aware of it.
Insulin is the hormone that controls the amount of sugar in the blood. Diabetes occurs when the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin, or the insulin it does produce doesn’t work properly.

Types of diabete:

• Type 1 diabetes develops if the body is unable to produce enough insulin. It occurs when the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas are destroyed. This can be triggered by an autoimmune response – the body attacking itself – which can be due to a viral or other infection. It can also be down to genetic factors. This type of diabetes usually appears before the age of 40. At present there is nothing that can be done to prevent type 1 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes accounts for between five and 15% of all cases of diabetes.

• Type 2 diabetes develops when the body can still make some insulin, but not enough, or when the body becomes resistant to insulin.
Type 2 diabetes is linked with being overweight and inactive. In particular, people who are an ‘apple-shape’ – with lots of fat around the abdomen – have been found to be at a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes. This type of diabetes also runs in families.
Type 2 diabetes usually appears in people over the age of 40, and is more common in men. However, it is becoming more common among overweight children and young people in the UK. It is also particularly common among people of African-Caribbean, Asian and Hispanic origin.
Between 85 and 95% of all people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes.


There is evidence to suggest that heavy drinking can reduce the body’s sensitivity to insulin, which can trigger type 2 diabetes.

Drinking can also increase your chance of becoming overweight and therefore your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

However, several studies have shown that light to moderate drinking actually may reduce your chance of getting type 2 diabetes.

Alcohol and diabetics

For both type 1 and type 2 diabetes your doctor will advise you to eat a healthy diet and take exercise to control your blood sugar levels.

Diabetics will generally be advised by their doctor that they can safely drink alcohol in moderation.

Alcohol lowers blood sugar levels, and diabetics must take this into account and eat plenty of food, preferably carbohydrates, to make sure their blood sugar levels stay steady.

Hypoglycaemia can be particularly dangerous when you’re drinking because others can mistake it for drunkenness and may not realise you need urgent medical help.

If you have nerve damage as a result of diabetes, drinking alcohol can make it worse and increase the pain, tingling, numbness and other symptoms.