Holiday Hazards for Diabetics

Alcoholic Beverages

In addition to increasing the risk of everything from minor social blunders to major accidents, alcoholic beverages in excess also pose a special risk to diabetics hoping to keep their blood sugar levels in check.

In fact, for many with diabetes, certain alcoholic drinks can represent a "double whammy" — first raising blood sugar, and then causing it to drop later.



"As for alcohol, a lot of fruity drinks can bring blood sugar up initially, but later they can lead to hypoglycemia," Kaufman said, adding that this paradox has to do with the way the liver breaks down alcohol.

Complicating this is the fact that that intoxication can often mask or emulate the effects of high and low blood sugar.

Kaufman notes that because of this, it is important for those with diabetes to control their alcohol intake, as well as check their blood sugar levels frequently to ensure that it is not too high or too low.

Heanue adds that those taking medications for their condition need to be particularly vigilant, particularly when it comes to any contraindications having to do with alcohol.

"Alcohol, depending on the interactions with the medicine their taking, is something that they need to be aware of," she said.

For diabetics and non-diabetics alike, there are many ways to avoid the problems associated with drinking too much at a holiday party. For example, follow your first drink with two mandatory glasses of club soda or some other non-alcoholic, non-sugary beverage. You'll probably find that this keeps you out of the alcohol trap, while still giving you the opportunity to raise a glass whenever necessary.

And in most cases, diabetics are safe as long as they drink in moderation. According to the American Diabetes Association, those with diabetes are likely still safe if they stick to a limit of two equivalents of alcohol — for example, two glasses of white wine, or two 12-ounce light beers.

Champagne

It's the drink of choice for a New Year's toast. And diabetes experts say that like other alcoholic beverages, champagne can be safely enjoyed by those with diabetes, as long as it's in moderation.

And in terms of avoiding a blood sugar roller coaster, you could do worse than the light, bubbly drink.



"Obviously they can take sips, or even a glass of champagne if they are also eating," Kaufman said. "Champagne does not have a lot of extra sugar in it."

But Heanue adds that going overboard can result in the same kind of hypoglycemia seen with overindulgence in other alcoholic beverages.

"Even if they are drinking champagne, this still needs to be limited," she said. "The end result of drinking alcohol is low blood sugar."

The trick here is to limit yourself to one glass — or even just a few sips — right after the ball drops. It's also a good idea to make sure you have a healthy snack in hand while you enjoy your drink, as a bit of extra sugar can act as a buffer against a blood sugar crash later in the evening.

The Chocolate Fountain

The chocolate fountain has become a popular addition to many holiday parties. And the good news is that despite its decadent appearance, it can be safely enjoyed by diabetics and non-diabetics alike.

The key, Salge Blake says, is to make sure that whatever you're dipping in the cascading ripples of chocolate has some semblance of nutritional value.



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