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[Irish Health] Alcohol ok for most with diabetes. (12 May 2014)

External website: http://www.irishhealth.com/article.html?id=23604

The majority of people with diabetes can continue to drink alcohol, however they must be aware of the effect it can have on their blood glucose levels if they are to ‘drink safely', a diabetes expert has warned.

According to Clair Naughton, a regional development officer with Diabetes Ireland, enjoying a drink ‘is part of Irish culture'. As a result, many people wonder if they can continue to consume alcohol after they are diagnosed with diabetes.

The recommended alcohol intake for people with diabetes is actually the same as for the general population - that is no more than 17 standard drinks per week for men and no more than 11 for women. People should never consume more than five standard drinks in one sitting.

One standard drink is equivalent to a half a pint of lager, a small (125ml) glass of wine or a pub measure of spirits.

Ms Naughton pointed out that alcohol tends to increase the risk of hypoglycaemia (abnormally low blood sugar levels), which can have ‘serious life-threatening consequences'. In fact, in patients with type 1 diabetes, ‘alcohol has been implicated in up to one-fifth of hospital attendances with hypoglycaemia'.

Hypoglycaemia can cause symptoms such as confusion, visual disturbances, anxiety and heart palpatations. Early treatment to raise blood sugar levels involves the consumption of (sugary) carbohydrates, such as glucose tablets or a fizzy drink. Left untreated, the condition can result in a loss of consciousness and even death.

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