Page last updated: Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Alcohol may increase delayed low blood sugar risk for diabetes type I patients
Drinking a modest amount of alcohol with an evening meal may increase the risk of low blood sugar the following day in patients with type 1 diabetes

“There is no evidence to suggest that individuals with type 1 diabetes adopt a different approach to their use of alcohol than the rest of the population,” Dr. Tristan Richardson and colleagues from Royal Bournemouth Hospital, UK, write. However, in patients treated with insulin, alcohol has been implicated in up to one fifth of hospital visits for episodes of low blood sugar, also known as hypoglycemia.

The researchers studied 16 patients with an average of 39 years old, who had diabetes for an average of 15 years and drank alcohol on a regular basis.

The participants were evaluated with a continuous glucose monitoring system (CGMS) on two occasions separated by 2 weeks. On one occasion or the other they were given either orange juice or vodka and orange juice with a standardized meal. The subjects received the same dose of insulin with the meal and before bed. On day 2, the patients abstained from alcohol and the team recorded meals, insulin doses, exercise, sleep and hypoglycemic events.

The subjects experienced an average of 1.3 hypoglycemic episodes per day during the 24 hours after the alcoholic drink compared with 0.6 after the placebo, statistically significant difference. No episodes of severe hypoglycemia were reported. The average blood sugar levels after alcohol were lower than after orange juice alone, Richardson and colleagues report. “This translated into an increased risk of (hypoglycemia) throughout the 24-h period, with a persistent risk of hypoglycemia continuing into the next day,” the team concludes.

They suggest that this information may enable people with diabetes “to be proactive and adjust insulin appropriately, with the aim to reduce the overall risk of hypoglycemia associated with alcohol.”

Source: Richardson T et al. Day After the Night Before: Influence of evening alcohol on risk of hypoglycemia in patients with type 1 diabetes. Diabetes Care 2005;28:1801-2.

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