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Nobody should have to deprive themselves of the joys of drinking wine. Yet for decades, this delight has been considered anathema for people with diabetes due to their condition. Alcohol consumption has long been thought of as detrimental to the health of type 1 and. type 2 diabetics. The reason is its effects on blood sugar levels, and the supposedly increased risk of heart diseases. But is this the case? Most people with diabetes deprive themselves of wine?

Fortunately, study after study has shown that moderate consumption of alcohol is safe. It can decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes. In this article, we’ll discuss everything you should know about diabetes and wine consumption. We’ll explore:

  • the basics of diabetes
  • the difference between type 1 and type 2
  • the effect of wine on patients of both maladies
  • and much more.
Wine and Diabetes: Here's What You Should Know
We’ll explore the basics of wine and diabetes, the difference between type 1 and type 2, the effect of wine on patients of both maladies, and much more. @womaninwine_

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic disease that is caused by abnormal levels of blood sugar in your body. Insulin helps convert blood sugar into energy that can be used for daily functioning. But the immune system of people with diabetes mistakes insulin-producing cells for disease-carrying viruses.

Those suffering from type 1-diabetes (T1D) don’t produce insulin at all because of this. As a result, they need to inject the compound into their bodies a few times every day. Conversely, type 2 diabetics (T2D) do produce insulin, but their bodies are unable to utilize it. These individuals have developed a resistance to the substance, albeit the production of insulin is still reasonably low. Around 90% of all diabetics in the United States suffer from T2D, making it much more common than T1D. Over 30 million US citizens suffer from either form.

The exact cause of either disease is still not understood well. We don’t know why the immune systems of people with type 1 diabetes attack native cells, or why some people have an insulin resistance while others don’t. What we do know is that several indicators heighten the risk of both forms of diabetes. T1D can’t be prevented since it is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. However, one can reduce their risk of contracting T2D by keeping their weight in check, eating healthy, and as recent studies have shown, by drinking wine in moderation.

What is ‘Moderate Consumption’?

If you’ve seen these two words being used alongside wine, they can appear to be relatively vague and subjective. However, there is a clear definition of what counts as ‘moderate drinking.’ This term refers to drinking one glass of wine a day for women and two glasses for men. But the amount of liquid in one glass of wine depends on the alcohol content of the bottle you’re consuming. The average amount of alcohol content in one bottle is 11.5-12%. Assuming your bottle has the same ABV, one glass should contain no more than 5 ounces of liquid. More ABV means less liquid and vice versa.

Wine and Diabetes: Here's What You Should Know
Wine and Diabetes @m_chapoutier

Does Wine Increase the Risk of Contracting Diabetes?

Contrary to popular belief, consuming wine in moderation decreases blood sugar levels instead of increasing them. As such, the main concern while drinking alcohol, in general, is preventing these levels from dropping too low, which can be fatal.

However, overconsumption will increase your risk of diabetes instead of just lowering blood glucose levels further. Heavy drinking is linked with chronic pancreatitis, and diabetes is a prominent consequence of this disease. It also affects the ability of insulin to convert blood glucose into energy, leading to a dangerous spike in your body.

Assuming you have checked in with your doctor and have been cleared to drink, there are four main precautions one can take to avoid any mishaps.

The first, and perhaps most important is to never drink on an empty stomach. This causes the alcohol to be absorbed faster, which causes blood sugar levels to plummet to unhealthy levels.

Secondly, make sure that you are hydrated throughout the night.

Third, check your blood sugar level before and after drinking to make sure the wine isn’t adversely affecting it.

Lastly, if you have T1D or T2D, it is always better to be accompanied by a friend or acquaintance when drinking in public. They can help you in case anything goes wrong.

Can wine actively improve your health?

Based on the information from the earlier section, we can conclude that if one takes the necessary precautions, red wine consumption won’t lead to diabetes. But as touched upon, drinking wine can simultaneously decrease the risk of diabetes and heart disease as well. A study by Stampfer, et al. confirmed the former half of this claim, however it is worth noting that it only tested women to gauge the correlation.

Regarding the latter, in the 1990s, a phenomenon called the ‘French Paradox’ started catching up in pop culture. This term referred to a curious observation in France wherein the citizens of this European nation consumed high amounts of saturated fat, which is very positively linked to heart diseases. However, the French seemed to be exempt from this rule. The primary reason behind this was thought to be the massive amount of wine that is consumed there. This led to substantial scholarship, which established that moderate wine consumption lessens the likelihood of heart disease even in those who did not suffer from T2D.

Wine has positive effects as its packed with antioxidants such as polyphenols, and a specific compound called resveratrol. Red wine also contains healthy cholesterols called HDL, which improves your glucose metabolism. Though health is generally not a factor one considers when drinking alcohol or wine, consuming the right amount can be somewhat beneficial for your body.

Wine and Diabetes: Here's What You Should Know
Glass of wine @my_glass_of_wine_by_micha_slr

Conclusion

If you’re diabetic and worried about the effect alcohol will have on your blood sugar level, wine is a great option that is healthier than other forms of alcohol. There are two main things one needs to be careful of to avoid any adverse outcomes. If you take the necessary precautions, such as not drinking on an empty stomach, staying hydrated, keep track of your blood sugar levels, and you should be fine.

Additionally, ensure that you restrict your consumption to one or two glasses of wine on any given day. Sticking to these rules doesn’t just ensure safety, however, as there are many positive benefits of drinking wine as well. Wine contains many antioxidants that can prevent some serious ailments like coronary heart disease, and others, but it’s always good to have more reasons to drink wine.