When it comes to the right drinks for diabetics, a lot of questions arise, one of which is, “Can a person with diabetes drink wine? The simple answer is yes; they can, provided their blood sugar is well-controlled and they have no comorbidity that makes drinking unsafe. It also depends on the type of wine in question. Hence, you need to understand how different wine types can affect your condition before taking a sip. 

Key Facts

  • While alcoholic drinks, generally, can reduce the efficacy of some diabetes medications, fluctuate sugar levels, and increase the risk of complications, drinks like red wine are not off-limits for people with diabetes when taken in moderation.
  • According to studies, moderate drinking of red wine is associated with health benefits in people with diabetes. However, drinking heavily may increase the risk of diabetes-related complications.
  • In the absence of comorbidity that makes drinking unsafe, doctors typically advise diabetics to avoid wine not because of the alcohol content but due to added or residual sugars that may be present. In that case, dry wine may be safer because it undergoes a fermentation process that transforms most of its sugar content into alcohol and carbon dioxide. The longer a wine ferments, the less sugar it has.
  • Drinking on an empty stomach can excessively lower blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia) - A dangerous condition for people with diabetes.
  • When alcohol consumption is combined with diabetes medications like insulin and sulfonylureas, hypoglycemia can occur.
  • For moderate alcohol consumption, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends not more than one drink for women and not more than two drinks for men daily. In this case, a drink means 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, and 1 ½ ounces of liquor.

Understanding Wine and Diabetes

Your liver normally releases glucose to maintain your blood sugar levels. But when you drink alcohol, the liver focuses on breaking down the alcohol instead of releasing glucose. This can lead to a quick drop in blood sugar, raising the risk of low blood sugar, especially if you're on insulin or certain diabetes medications. Drinking without eating food increases this risk significantly.

NOTE: Alcohol, including red wine, can lower blood sugar for up to 24 hours. Hence, it's recommended to check blood sugar levels before, during, and up to 24 hours after drinking. Most crucially, avoid overconsumption and avoid alcoholic drinks on an empty stomach, as this could cause a dangerously rapid drop in sugar levels.

Wine Varieties Recommended for Diabetics

Both red and white wine can be good options for diabetics who want to savor the feel-good vibe of alcoholic drinks, although moderation is always a watchword.

Red Wines

Dry red wine, when taken moderately, can benefit people with diabetes because of its high antioxidant content. It can improve heart disease markers and reduce the risk of diabetes-related complications.

Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the driest red wines on the market. Its dryness comes from the fermentation process in which the yeast consumes all the sugar, making it a healthier option for diabetics.

Red wine like Cabernet Sauvignon can increase insulin sensitivity and help the body regulate glucose levels. Hence, you can drink this moderately, and rest assured you'll be fine.

Pinot Noir

The resveratrol in Pinot Noir makes it highly recommended for diabetics. But apart from helping with diabetes, resveratrol can prevent many other conditions like heart problems, cancer, liver diseases, obesity, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease. It does this by acting as an antioxidant, reducing inflammation, regulating glucose and lipids, and protecting the heart and brain. So, a little sip of this wine will cause more good than harm.

Syrah

People with diabetes can enjoy Syrah wine with dinner and expect no adverse effects. Like Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah wines are typically dry, with less than 3 g/L of residual sugar.

They are rich in antioxidants that can reduce the risk of bad cholesterol and heart disease. Besides these health benefits, their bold flavors and full-bodied nature make them palatable, with varying tastes, depending on the climate or soil where they are grown.

White Wines

Dry white wines like Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc can also be great options for people with diabetes, provided they are consumed in moderation.

Chardonnay

Wine made from the chardonnay grape is typically white, dry, mildly sweet, and, most importantly, healthy for diabetics when consumed responsibly. The rich taste comes from the residual sugar, with a glass containing about 1.4 grams. Its flavors range from apple and lemon to papaya and pineapple, with some notes of vanilla and caramel when aged in an oak barrel.

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon has grown in popularity not just among people with diabetes but the general population. Its trademark acidity, with crisp, grassy, and tropical tastes, sets it apart. It boasts the least sugar among dry white wines, with approximately 3.75g of sugar per bottle and 0.75g of sugar per glass. So you should be able to enjoy a glass without any concern.

Characteristics of Diabetic-Friendly Wines

Diabetics can drink alcohol, including white and red wine, provided they do it moderately under the right conditions. But some wine varieties are healthier than others, and here are some tips to identify them:

Lower Sugar Content

Diabetic-friendly wines typically have low sugar content and lower glycemic index. Hence, they won't spike your blood sugar. Dry wines like Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Champagne are good low-sugar wines.

Moderate Alcohol Content

Wines with moderate alcohol levels are generally safer for people managing diabetes. Higher alcohol content can lead to fluctuations in blood sugar to dangerously low levels.

High Antioxidant Content

A wine rich in antioxidants like resveratrol will contribute to the overall well-being of people with diabetes, particularly by protecting the body against oxidative stress and inflammation. Studies have also shown that resveratrol can improve insulin sensitivity among diabetics. Red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Syrah are typically high in antioxidants.

What Wines Should Diabetics Avoid

People with diabetes should avoid sugary wines - whether residual or added. Any wine with high sugar content is definitely not an option for a diabetic patient.

"All it takes is very small amounts of alcohol to really throw off your blood sugar in a big way, especially if that alcohol is a sugary wine, cocktail, beer, or margarita," says Dr. Eric Berg DC.

To be safer, choose wines with transparent labeling that clearly indicates their sugar and carbohydrate content. This will help you manage your consumption better.

Safety Precautions and Considerations

Alcohol consumption is often not advised by medical professionals, not because a glass of dry wine can cause much damage but because it can be addictive, and addiction can easily lead to overconsumption, which can be risky for both diabetic and non-diabetic people.

Your doctor may also caution you against using alcoholic wines because they may interact with certain diabetes medications that substitute for or stimulate the body’s own insulin production (e.g., insulin or sulfonylureas). This can lead to severe hypoglycemia.

Another reason your doctor may not want you to drink alcoholic wine as a diabetic is if you have another serious health challenge (comorbidity) that makes alcohol intake unadvisable. Even moderate alcohol consumption may interfere with the activities of medications for treating diabetes-related comorbidities like high blood pressure.

We always recommend talking to your doctor before taking alcohol. They are better positioned to consider all these risks and help you take the necessary safety measures.

Tips to Drink Wine Safely as a Diabetic

  • Only take the recommended quantity of alcohol, typically 5 ounces of wine or 1 ½ ounces of liquor, or as advised by your doctor. Remember: Moderation is crucial to avoid fluctuations in blood sugar levels.
  • Be sure to buy from a reliable seller.
  • Read the labeling and choose wines with lower sugar content. Examples are Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and certain types of Champagne. Avoid sweet or dessert wines, which can cause spikes in blood glucose levels.
  • Check your blood sugar levels before, during, and after drinking wine to understand its impact on your body.
  • Never drink alcohol on an empty stomach, as this can severely impact your sugar levels.

Conclusion

Drinking dry wine is safe and can benefit diabetics once it is moderated. The main danger that alcohol poses for people with diabetes is its interaction with certain medications they either take to treat their condition or manage the existing comorbidity. However, you have little to worry about wine consumption by practicing moderation, choosing low-sugar options, eating a balanced diet, monitoring blood sugar levels, and being mindful of drug interactions.

Sources

To ensure that we give you correct, accurate, and relevant information, all articles on Diabetic & Me are backed by verified information from academic research papers, well-known organizations, research institutions, and medical associations.

  1. National Library of Medicine The relationship between alcohol consumption and vascular complications and mortality in individuals with type 2 diabetes
  2. Johns Hopkins Medicine Mixing Alcohol with Your Diabetes
  3. American Diabetes Association Alcohol and Diabetes
  4. Metabolism Journal Red wine consumption improves insulin resistance but not endothelial function in type 2 diabetic patients
  5. National Library of Medicine Health Benefits and Molecular Mechanisms of Resveratrol: A Narrative Review
  6. Science Direct Effect of resveratrol on glucose control and insulin sensitivity: a meta-analysis of 11 randomized controlled trials123
  7. National Library of Medicine Alcohol and Medication Interactions

About the Author

Ely Fornoville

Hi, I'm Ely Fornoville, and I am the founder of Diabetic Me. Being a type 1 diabetic since 1996, I developed a passion to help people learn more about diabetes. I write about diabetes and share stories from other diabetics around the world. I currently use a Medtronic Guardian 4 CGM and a MiniMed 780G insulin pump with Humalog insulin.

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