Beer for Diabetics – Is It Safe?

Aditi Shenai

May 26, 2023

The metabolic disease, diabetes mellitus results from increased blood sugar levels in the bloodstream. It happens due to irregular insulin production and action.

Diabetes can seriously affect the kidneys, eyes, heart, nerves, blood vessels, teeth, and brain. In addition, it can lead to continuous harm, dysfunction, and organ failure. 

Those with diabetes can prevent or control the disease by leading a healthy life. A healthy lifestyle includes exercising, eating nutritious meals, and reducing weight. Hence, diabetes patients should abstain from drinking alcoholic beverages such as beer which can lead to weight gain. In addition, beer contains sugar in the form of maltose and maltodextrin, which can raise blood sugar levels and add calories to one’s diet.

Please do note that this article in no way advocates the consumption of alcohol whether you are diabetic or completely healthy. However, if you have hyperglycemia, it is even more crucial to be aware of the effects that alcohol can have on your blood sugar levels before consuming it. Studies have shown that drinking alcohol can cause fluctuation in blood sugar levels.

Beer – An Overview

Brewing beer involves fermenting starches, usually malted barley, that come from cereal grains. Manufacturers also use other grains such as wheat, rice, oats and maize. During fermentation, the starch sugars in the wort are converted into ethanol and carbonation, resulting in the finished beer.

The amount of alcohol in beer can vary greatly. For instance, while the average alcohol content in beer is 5%, it can go as high as 10%.

Even though light beer has less alcohol and calories than ordinary beer, it still contains roughly 4% alcohol. 

Types of Beer

Although one can find over 100 different types of beer, the primary classification is either an ale or a lager. 

Lagers are fermented using bottom-fermenting yeast at a temperature between 35°F and 50°F. Conversely, ales ferment using top-fermenting yeast at temperatures between 60°F and 70°F. 

Examples of ales include India pale ale (IPA), Imperial IPA, stouts, New England-style IPA, and Gose, a wheat ale. Concerning lager, examples include American, Mexican, Vienna, Pilsner, and Helles. Light beer and non-alcoholic beer are made similarly to regular beer. However, they contain fewer calories and less alcohol. 

Beer for Diabetes – Understanding the Impact

For those with diabetes, it is crucial to limit beer consumption. Low-calorie or mild beer is a better choice, as it has lower sugar and carbs (12 ounces of regular beer contains 15 grams of carbs, while mild beer typically has 3-6 grams).

A typical beer contains 150 calories, but because it has a low alcohol content, people often drink multiple cans, resulting in a total of 700-1000 calories. Unfortunately, these calories are empty, meaning they do not provide your body with any proteins, fats, minerals, or vitamins. Additionally, studies have indicated that beer has a high glycemic index (GI) ranging from 89 to 110.

Research shows that after entering the bloodstream, alcohol rapidly reaches the brain. Additionally, alcohol affects the liver, making it challenging to produce glucose. Therefore, when one consumes too much alcohol, blood sugar levels become low, potentially leading to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).

The HealthifyMe Note

Individuals often pose questions such as, “Can diabetics drink beer?” or “Is beer good for diabetics?” Drinking alcohol isn’t recommended to anyone but if you are diabetic and choose to indulge in an alcoholic drink, please keep in mind that your blood sugar levels will fluctuate. Furthermore, it is essential to avoid drinking alcohol on an empty stomach and to monitor your blood sugar levels while consuming alcohol closely and for up to 24 hours afterwards to prevent hypoglycemia. Your first step, however, is to abstain from alcohol.


If you have diabetes, it is essential to lead a healthy lifestyle. A part of a healthy lifestyle is avoiding consuming alcoholic beverages, including beer.

Even if you drink, ensure that you do so in moderation. However, be wary of the adverse effects. One common negative effect of beer or any alcoholic drink on people with diabetes is hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. To avoid it, never drink beer on an empty stomach, especially if you take sulfonylureas or insulin. 

Studies have found that excessive beer consumption may harm people with diabetes. However, if you still wish to have alcohol, a few tips can help you manage its effects to some extent.

Eat a lot of fibre-rich and protein-rich snacks right before drinking beer. It will keep you full, prevent you from overconsuming beer and also reduce the chances of hypoglycemia.

Also, beer is a diuretic that can deplete the body’s electrolyte balance, drink plenty of water after consuming beer.

Disclaimer: The purpose of this article is just to disperse knowledge and raise awareness. It does not intend to replace medical advice from professionals. For further information please contact our certified nutritionists Here

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. Is beer bad for diabetics?

A. Alcoholic beverages including beer are not advisable for anyone and can have damaging effects even on the healthiest people. When it comes to those with diabetes, in particular, beer can cause blood sugar to fluctuate and drop to a dangerously low level. It interferes with the medications and causes further complications, thus diabetics should avoid beer. However, if you want to enjoy a glass occasionally, make sure you do not have it on an empty stomach and keep snacking between sips. 

Q. Is beer good for blood sugar?

A. Beer or any alcoholic beverage is not good for blood sugar as it causes fluctuations. Most alcoholic drinks will tend to initially raise your blood sugar. Later alcohol inhibits the liver from producing glucose which increases the risk of hypoglycemia once blood sugars start to come down.

Q. Can Type 2 diabetics drink beer?

Alcohol of any variety is not advisable for healthy living. Beer consumption by diabetics can cause serious complications. Beer will tend to initially raise your blood sugar and later inhibit the liver from producing glucose which may result in low blood sugars. If you have a number of these drinks, you can expect to see a rise in blood sugar followed by a steady drop a number of hours later, often whilst asleep. People who take insulin and medications therefore need to be wary of hypoglycemia.

Q. What happens when diabetics drink beer?

A. According to studies, alcohol consumption is linked to a higher risk of hypoglycemia in people with diabetes. Low blood sugar can happen while consuming alcohol, along with the drugs that are most frequently used to treat diabetes, namely insulin and sulfonylureas. This can further harm the vital organs and lead to their failure. 

Q. Does beer worsen diabetes?

A. Drinking excessively, especially if you have diabetes, can contribute to specific acids build up in your blood, which can have serious health effects. In addition, drinking alcohol can worsen diabetes-related medical issues, including changes in how fat gets metabolised, nerve damage.

Q. How much beer can a diabetic drink?

A. It is best if diabetics avoid beer. It can cause serious blood sugar fluctuations and interfere with medications. If it is not possible to avoid then 1/2 pint of standard strength beer or lager beer can be consumed provided you indulge in it occasionally. Also make sure to avoid having alcohol on empty stomach to avoid risk of hypoglycemia.

The Supporting Sources

1. Jee, Y. H., Lee, S. J., Jung, K. J., & Jee, S. H. (2016). Alcohol Intake and Serum Glucose Levels from the Perspective of a Mendelian Randomization Design: The KCPS-II Biobank. PLOS ONE, 11(9), e0162930. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0162930


2. Sluik D, Atkinson FS, Brand-Miller JC, Fogelholm M, Raben A, Feskens EJ. Contributors to dietary glycaemic index and glycaemic load in the Netherlands: the role of beer. Br J Nutr. 2016 Apr 14;115(7):1218-25. doi: 10.1017/S0007114516000052. Epub 2016 Feb 9. PMID: 26857156.


3. Emanuele NV, Swade TF, Emanuele MA. Consequences of alcohol use in diabetics. Alcohol Health Res World. 1998;22(3):211-9. PMID: 15706798; PMCID: PMC6761899.


4. Van de Wiel A. Diabetes mellitus and alcohol. Diabetes Metab Res Rev. 2004 Jul-Aug;20(4):263-7. doi: 10.1002/dmrr.492. PMID: 15250029.


5. Meeking DR, Cavan DA. Alcohol ingestion and glycaemic control in patients with insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. Diabet Med. 1997 Apr;14(4):279-83. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1096-9136(199704)14:4<279::AID-DIA327>3.0.CO;2-S. PMID: 9113480.


About the Author

M.Sc in: Dietetics and Applied Nutrition from Manipal University. Worked: All over India and have been involved in helping set up nutrition departments in start ups. Interested in lifestyle based nutrition. Mantra: A healthy lifestyle isn't a choice to be made or discarded, it's a way of life!

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