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What Sugar Addicts Should Know about Alcohol

Alcoholic drinks generally contain only small amounts of sugar (assuming that you don’t add lots of sugary mixer). Even a glass of sweet white wine usually contains only about 8 grams of sugar. But be careful — this doesn’t mean that the wine is low in total carbohydrates or calories! Most alcoholic beverages consist of mostly high-glycemic carbohydrates.

Despite its relatively low sugar content, alcohol can have a drastic effect on your blood sugar levels. Although alcohol may cause a slight rise in blood sugar levels when you initially ingest it, the overall effect of alcohol is to cause a drop in blood sugar.

The more you drink, the more your blood sugar drops. Drinking as little as 2 ounces of alcohol on an empty stomach can lead to a very low blood sugar level, which can be a big problem for anyone with diabetes. It also increases your appetite, as anyone who has had too much to drink can attest to.

Over time, excessive alcohol consumption can decrease insulin’s effectiveness, resulting in high blood sugar levels and insulin resistance. One study showed that 70 percent of people with alcoholic liver disease had either glucose intolerance or diabetes.

Food manufacturers have recently begun using sugar alcohols as sweeteners. Sugar alcohols are technically neither sugars nor alcohols; they’re carbohydrates with a chemical structure that partially resembles sugar and partially resembles alcohol (but they don’t contain ethanol, like alcoholic beverages do).

Polyols, as sugar alcohols are also known, aren’t completely absorbed and metabolized by the body and consequently contribute about 25 percent fewer calories than most sugars — but you should still consider them sugar. Many sugar alcohols have unpleasant side effects, including bloating, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. Commonly used sugar alcohols include erythritol, isomalt, lactitol, maltitol, maltitol syrup, mannitol, sorbitol, and xylitol.

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