Alcohol poses serious risks for those with diabetes

July 20, 2012 By Serena Gordon, HealthDay Reporter
Alcohol poses serious risks for those with diabetes
If you drink, diabetes association recommends having a snack at the same time.

(HealthDay) -- People who have certain chronic medical conditions, such as type 1 diabetes, are even more susceptible than most to the ill effects of alcohol, though they may not be aware of how potentially dangerous alcohol can be.

That was the case for Cynthia Zuber when she first went away to college. Although Zuber had , also known as insulin-dependent diabetes, she didn't know at the time that mixing an alcohol binge and insulin use might have deadly consequences.

Zuber was just 18 when she went to a fraternity party.

"It was a party of upperclassmen, and my friend and I, both freshmen, felt very young and out of place," she recalled. "To deal with the discomfort, I started drinking beer."

Throughout the evening, she said, she went back for refills on her own, and people also repeatedly brought her refills. "I had no idea how many beers I had," she said, nor did she know her blood sugar levels because she didn't test them during the party.

Alcohol can cause blood sugar levels to drop dangerously low for people on blood sugar-lowering medications for as long as 12 hours after their last drink, according to the American Diabetes Association.

"Things got out of control quickly, and when we went to leave I had to be carried to the car and into my dorm," she explained.

Zuber said she vomited throughout the night, probably from the beer, but she doesn't know for sure because she didn't test her before going to bed, either. At some point during the night, she passed out, and when she woke in the morning, she was still vomiting.

When she tested her blood sugar, it was low enough that she knew she'd have to eat something or she would quickly be in serious trouble. The problem was, she couldn't keep food down. She even tried , but threw that up, too. Someone in her dorm drove her to the .

"I was so oblivious to the danger I'd put myself in," Zuber recalled. "The doctor, who was wearing Birkenstock sandals and an earring, actually slapped me across the face -- not hard, but to get my attention." The doctor then explained to her a number of ways that alcohol could cause serious problems, or even death, for someone with type 1 diabetes.

Zuber said she didn't give up drinking entirely after that incident, but did cut way back and never again drank enough to have to go to the hospital. Now 36, Zuber recently gave up alcohol entirely because, she said, she just feels better if she doesn't drink.

For anyone with diabetes, the recommends having a snack at the same time you're consuming an alcoholic beverage, and to not have more than one drink a day for women and two a day for men. But most important, the association says, is to check your before going to sleep after drinking -- striving for a level between 100 and 140 milligrams per deciliter.

Explore further: New ACE survey shows people with type 2 diabetes experience low blood sugar during typical daily activities

Related Stories

Study supports association of alcohol and diabetes

March 29, 2012

Subjects in a cohort in Sweden, some of whom had been exposed to a community intervention program to prevent diabetes, were evaluated 8-10 years after baseline for the presence of diabetes mellitus or impaired glucose metabolism ...

Diabetes can take a toll on your emotions

May 18, 2012

(HealthDay) -- Many people know diabetes -- both type 1 and type 2 -- can take a serious toll on physical health. But these blood-sugar disorders also can affect your emotions and, in turn, your emotions can wreak havoc on ...

Recommended for you

Major fall in diabetes-related amputations since the 1990s

November 22, 2015

A major new study has found a significant reduction in diabetes-related amputations since the mid-1990s, credited to improvements in diabetes care over this period. The research is published in Diabetologia (the journal of ...

Blocking immune cell treats new type of age-related diabetes

November 18, 2015

Diabetes is often the result of obesity and poor diet choices, but for some older adults the disease might simply be a consequence of aging. New research has discovered that diabetes—or insulin resistance—in aged, lean ...

Bacteria may cause type 2 diabetes

June 1, 2015

Bacteria and viruses have an obvious role in causing infectious diseases, but microbes have also been identified as the surprising cause of other illnesses, including cervical cancer (Human papilloma virus) and stomach ulcers ...

Engineered hot fat implants reduce weight gain in mice

August 20, 2015

Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, have developed a novel way to engineer the growth and expansion of energy-burning "good" fat, and then found that this fat helped reduce weight gain and lower blood glucose ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.