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Alcohol and diabetes

Diabetes and alcoholThere are 173,000 people in Wales living with diabetes, with many thousands more either unaware they have the condition or are at high risk of developing diabetes.

Heavy drinking is known to contribute to the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, which occurs when the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin or the body becomes resistant to its effects. Consuming five or six alcoholic drinks a day raises the risk by up to 75%.

How alcohol impacts the development of diabetes is not fully understood. Excessive consumption over the long-term is linked with chronic pancreatitis – where the pancreas becomes permanently damaged from inflammation and is no longer able to produce insulin. Chronic pancreatitis is a major risk factor for diabetes.

Regularly drinking above recommended guidelines can also lead to weight gain over time due to the calorific content of alcoholic drinks; and being overweight, and especially putting on mid-body fat, is a big risk factor for developing Type 2 diabetes.

If you already have diabetes and use insulin or tablets to manage it, alcohol can be potentially dangerous because it can lead to low blood sugar levels, known as hypoglycaemia or ‘hypo’. The risk of a hypo can be reduced by never drinking on an empty stomach, regularly checking your blood glucose levels and sticking within the recommended alcohol guidelines. Keep an eye on your drinking

Read our factsheet and find out more about how alcohol affects your health.

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