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Insulin Resistance and Alcohol

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Insulin Resistance and Alcohol.

Alcohol intake has a complex relationship to insulin resistance, with moderate alcohol intake resulting in decreased insulin resistance but high alcohol intake causing increased insulin resistance. Did you know that our body uses insulin to pull glucose out of the blood? When our tissues do not/cannot respond effectively to insulin, the condition is known as insulin resistance. About 20% of the total alcohol consumed by us is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream. The rest is absorbed while it gets processed through the gastrointestinal tract. Cell membranes are highly permeable to alcohol, so, it can diffuse into almost every biological tissue into the body once it enters the bloodstream. In the long term, this can put your health at serious risk.

Understanding Insulin Resistance

When muscle, liver and fat cells are not responding effectively to insulin, the condition is called insulin resistance, also known as pre-diabetes. The blood glucose levels can become chronically elevated in this condition. One of the dangers of insulin resistance is that it frequently progresses into type 2 diabetes, which increases your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, kidney dysfunction, nerve damage and loss of vision.

First off, not all alcoholic beverages are the same. Keep in mind, though, if you are trying to lose weight due to a medical condition like thyroid or PCOS, or just because you want to get back in shape, you must try your hardest to stay away from alcohol. Alcohol is the same across the board; it’s a macronutrient with seven calories per gram, so that’s the starting point. It’s a by-product of fermentation. While you can drink and stay in shape, alcohol will be burned by the body in preference of all other nutrients consumed. Essentially, a sugar compound is acted upon by yeast and the yeast produces alcohol and carbon dioxide. Depending on the type of sugar compound, you get different kinds of alcoholic beverages. Hard liquor, or spirits, take the process a little further and adds distillation. In other words, alcohol will slow down the fat loss process. In general, be wary of the following:

     Flavored Liquor




     Mixers (Soda, Juice, Syrups)


Due to the fact that alcohol adds calories to your diet and consuming large amounts of alcohol increases insulin resistance, it is believed that alcohol consumption can increase your chance of becoming overweight and obese. A study conducted on obesity found that in elderly men alcohol intake correlated with obesity, which suggests that the high insulin resistance found in heavy drinkers could be explained by their proclivity to obesity. Too much body fat can make your body less sensitive to insulin, resulting in insulin resistance.

Effect of Alcohol Consumption

The liver is responsible for breaking down and metabolizing the alcohol that we consume. While the liver is busy processing alcohol, blood glucose levels go down. Hence, while little alcohol consumption is associated with a decreased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, a lot of it may be harmful for health. A study found that in Japanese men, moderate alcohol consumption resulted in decreased insulin resistance.

Other Factors

A recent study from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine confirms that a low carb, higher fat diet is not detrimental to vascular health and results in faster weight loss. The authors confirmed that the dieters in the low carb group had no harmful changes in vascular health and dropped more weight over a shorter period of time than the higher carb group. In contrast, there are also many studies showing that a high carbohydrate diet and elevated blood sugar and insulin are highly associated with inflammatory heart disease.

Overall, studies suggest that moderate alcohol intake is safe if you are concerned about insulin resistance or pre-diabetes, but only if you otherwise have a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced and nutritious diet and regular exercise. Although many studies found a potential relationship between alcohol intake and insulin resistance, they also note that there are a number of other factors, such as age, diet and activity level, that affect insulin resistance.

Disclaimer: The medical and/or nutritional information on this site is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read on this website.