Q: Many people (and doctors too) say to stop drinking wine (or drastically cut back) if you have diabetes due to the sugar. But most wine is fermented to dryness or close to it. Is there some reaction in the body that converts dry wine into sugar? —Michael Rudy
A: Actually, several studies have shown that moderate wine drinking is linked to a lower risk of developing diabetes, and new research, covered below, sheds more light on how those benefits may be connected to your drinking habits. As you note, dry wines don't have a lot of sugar, and alcohol is not converted to glucose. So the concern about diabetics drinking dry wines, as opposed to sweet ones, is not that it would lead to hyperglycemia, but rather the opposite. Alcohol can lower blood sugar levels, which can result in a dangerous hypoglycemic reaction, with symptoms (very similar to those of intoxication) such as dizziness, confusion, trembling, irritability, headaches and, in severe cases, passing out.
The liver's functions include manufacturing glucose from non-carbohydrate energy sources (gluconeogenesis) and metabolizing alcohol to remove it from the body. When you drink, especially if you have more than one serving, your liver is busy working on the alcohol, hampering gluconeogenesis and potentially resulting in low blood sugar.
If you're diabetic, please consult with your doctor about continuing to drink wine as part of your diet. If you are cleared to drink, do so with a meal to counteract the alcohol's hypoglycemic effect, and always monitor your blood glucose levels before and afterward. Be aware that the effects of alcohol can last for hours.