The Surprising Fact About Alcohol

It might come as a surprise to a lot of people that studies conclude that 78% of the adults in the United States at least occasionally consume drinks that contain alcohol, including beer and wine. That isn’t the most surprising fact about alcohol, however.

It should be mentioned, as a preface, that diabetics are warned not to drink beverages that contain alcohol because doing so results in an almost immediate spike in blood sugar levels. That is primarily because alcohol is absorbed through the stomach immediately, particularly if there is nothing in the stomach that is being digested. Fatty foods in the stomach can slow the absorption, however, alcohol is still rapidly absorbed.

Here is the surprising thing, though. Alcohol contains no carbohydrates. Flavored drinks, wine, and beer all contain carbohydrates, but the alcohol doesn’t. Through fermentation and distillation, none of the carbohydrates that were in the original slurry are left. The purer the alcohol, in other words, the fewer carbs it contains.

Alcohol purity is measured in ‘proof’, which is a number that is half of the amount of alcohol that is actually contained. Thus, 80 proof alcohol is 40% pure alcohol (ethanol) and 151 proof alcohol contains a little more than 75% alcohol.

What this comes down to is this; unflavored vodka or other alcohols has no carbohydrates, particularly if it has a high proof.

The effect of alcohol on blood-sugar levels has to do with how it is metabolized rather than on the number of carbohydrates it contains. However, here is something that is just as surprising. Having an alcoholic drink normally increases the blood-sugar level immediately, as has already been stated. But drinking alcohol in excess can actually drop the blood-sugar level to a dangerous degree. Again, this has to do with metabolism and how blood-sugar is used to break down the alcohol. For diabetics, both a sudden increase in blood-sugar or a sudden decrease in blood-sugar can be life-threatening. 

The point is that none of this has to do with carbohydrates. Alcohol doesn’t contain any. Flavors and mixers can contain carbohydrates, but alcohol doesn’t. This is something that most of the 78% of adults in the US who drink alcohol are probably unaware of.

Alcohol also contains no nutrients, though it does have calories. This is why alcohol is often referred to as being nothing but empty calories. It has no nutritionally redeeming qualities what so ever. 


What do you think?


Written by Rex Trulove

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  1. I’m a diabetic.
    And I’ve always been interested in this topic. I’m going to have two opinions of experts, of course, from the Internet.
    While, on the one hand, a moderate amount of alcohol can cause a mild rise in blood sugar levels, excessive amounts of alcohol have a completely different effect – they lower the blood sugar level, and often make it an alarmingly low point.

    STOKHOLM – Alcohol consumption is known to lower blood sugar levels in diabetics, and a new Swedish study in animals has sparked light on the mechanism behind this phenomenon.
    A study by the Stockholm Institute Karolinska has shown that alcohol causes a “mass redistribution of blood flow to the pancreas” and thus helps more blood reach the pancreatic region known as the islet.

    These islets contain cells whose main function is the production of insulin, a key hormone that lowers the level of sugar in the body, Reuters reported.

    After ethanol injection, the blood flow of laboratory rats in the pancreas is increased by approximately four times, although the total flow through the pancreas has not changed. Injection of alcohol resulted in increased insulin secretion and a decrease in blood sugar levels.

    An additional study found that redistribution of blood into the pancreas under the influence of alcohol is due to the chemical compound nitrogen oxide and to the nervous vagus, which is responsible for transmitting many important signals in the body.

    Swedish experts recommend that doctors diagnosed with diabetes, as well as those with liver problems, advise them to be very careful about consuming alcohol, especially if they take medicines for lowering blood sugar, because these drugs can further increase the effect of alcohol.
    And that’s why I drink only soft drinks because I’m not sure how many doctors know it.
    They constantly change their minds.

    • Thank you for the additional information. Actually, there isn’t much of a conflict between the two articles. It is mostly a case of them having different objectives and explaining it in different ways. Alcohol consumption is quite dangerous for diabetics and I certainly wouldn’t suggest over-indulgence in order to lower blood sugar levels.

      None of that has anything to do with carbohydrates, which diabetics are told to avoid or cut down on. Alcohol contains no carbohydrates. It also doesn’t contain fats or protein. Taken a step farther, one of the reasons alcohol is bad for even people who don’t have diabetes is the potentially huge swing in blood sugar levels. That isn’t good for anyone.

      Another reason it isn’t good for people, in general, is in the byproducts produced when the alcohol is broken down; especially acetaldehyde. This is a toxic substance that isn’t greatly different than the better-known formaldehyde.

      Acetaldehyde is what causes hangovers, which is actually a symptom of poisoning. It is also a type 1 carcinogenic, so it can cause cancer.

  2. Interesting information. I do not consume much but I do indulge in the occasional glass of wine and in warmer weather cold beer. My younger days in NYC were spent as part of the bar scene I no longer indulge in the hard stuff most likely if I did I would not survive to the next day just the thought of the higher proofed drinks makes my head spin. Is it really true that beer is a source of Vitamin B/

    • Yes, that is true. That is because of the yeast and homemade beer or wine would be higher in it. Beer has also certainly been around for a long time. The oldest recipe known to exist was a recipe for making beer.

  3. Most of us are familiar with the immediate effects that alcohol consumption has on the brain. Euphoria, depression, memory loss, blurred vision, slurred speech, and a general state of confusion are only some of these effects.

    However, for those who consume excessive amounts of alcohol over extended periods, this repeated brain damage can have a long-lasting effect on neuronal and mental health.


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