Q: Can you recommend a few low-sugar wines for a diabetic? —Patti
A: According to Thomas Donner, associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and acting director of the Diabetes Center, most table wines have little to no residual sugars, and therefore no immediate effect on blood sugar levels. Dessert wines, however, do have residual sugars, and should be avoided by sugar-sensitive patients.
But as a diabetic, it's not enough to know how much sugar is in wine, you also have to be aware of how alcohol affects your sugar levels. In diabetics, the liver produces extra sugars. Alcohol reduces the amount of sugar a liver produces, so consumption of alcohol can actually bring these sugar levels down temporarily. As such, according to Donner, "alcohol may be paradoxically beneficial for people with diabetes."
Patients taking insulin need to be especially cautious when drinking alcohol, since insulin also lowers blood sugar levels. Donner explains: "the amount of alcohol in one glass of wine is enough to prevent the liver from making sugar, thus increasing the risk of a more severe low blood sugar reaction from insulin therapy." Too much alcohol can also impair someone's ability to recognize the symptoms of low blood sugar. Insulin patients, therefore, must be vigilant and test their blood sugar levels when consuming alcohol.
He does caution that although wine may have beneficial effects, it still needs to be consumed in moderation. "I don't discourage [diabetics] from drinking wine, especially red wine, but [I do] say to 'drink responsibly.'" If you'd like to fit alcohol into your diet, be sure to talk to your doctor and see if it's right for you.
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