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Hypoglycaemia and Alcohol

Alcohol can cause delayed hypos in people with Type 1 diabetes – low blood sugars the day after drinking even modest amounts of alcohol the previous evening. Research carried out at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital [Diabetes Care, July 2005] showed that alcohol has been implicated in up to one fifth of hospital visits for hypoglycaemia, low blood sugars. The researchers investigated the effect of evening alcohol in 16 people with Type 1 diabetes who had normal hypo warnings and who drank alcohol on a regular basis. The participants were evaluated with continuous blood glucose monitoring on two occasions – after taking orange juice and vodka or just orange juice followed by the same meal and same dose of insulin. They experienced 1.3 episodes of hypoglycaemia per day during the 24hours after the alcoholic drink compared to 0.6 episodes after a non-alcoholic drink. The researchers suggest that this research may encourage people to be more ‘proactive’ in adjusting their insulin appropriately if they are drinking alcohol.

Just a few words of warning:

  • Try to learn how alcohol affects you and learn the best ways to cope with it.
  • It is always best to drink with a meal and to tell someone you are with that you have diabetes.
  • You should not assume that drinks which contain carbohydrate will counteract the hypo risk because they don’t.
  • Low carb alcoholic drinks such as Pils contain more alcohol – so not a good idea!
  • The warning signs of hypos can be missed with too many drinks and other people may mistakenly think that you are drunk rather than you are hypo.
  • Carry out more blood glucose tests to check for hypos for at least the next 24hours.