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Alcohol Consumption and the Risk of Diabetes

Did you know that…

According to a recent survey 80% of Canadians consume alcohol and 23% of those who drink, drink too much.1

So how much is too much?

Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines suggest that weekly alcohol intake should not exceed 15 standard drinks for males and 10 drinks for females, while daily alcohol consumption should not exceed 3 drinks a day most days for males and 2 drinks a day most days for females.2 Drinking in excess can increase your chances of developing certain chronic diseases.

Alcohol and Diabetes

  • Research studies have shown that heavy alcohol consumption (>2 drinks per day) can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes 3
  • It is thought that heavy alcohol consumption increases insulin resistance 3
  • Diabetes is a growing concern as more than 2 million Canadians have diabetes and approximately 7 million Canadians are developing the disease each year 4
  • Research shows that you can prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes. Lifestyle changes such as drinking in moderation if you choose to drink may help you to minimize your risk.


Follow the Low-Risk Drinking Guidelines

Canada’s first national Low-Risk Drinking Guidelines, released on November 25, 2011, are suggestions to assist healthy adults to make informed decisions about their alcohol consumption. They describe drinking practices that balance the health benefits while minimizing risks. For more information, click here.


Zero drinks = lowest risk of an alcohol-related problem


Women – No more than 3 standard drinks on any single occasion


Men – No more than 4 standard drinks on any single occasion


Women10 standard drinks a week; no more than 2 standard drinks a day most days


Men15 standard drinks a week; no more than 3 standard drinks a day most days

1 standard drink = 13.6 grams of alcohol
5 oz = 142 mL 1.5 oz = 43 mL 12 oz = 341 mL

The national low-risk drinking guidelines are for people of legal drinking age and do not apply if you are driving a vehicle or using machinery and tools; taking medication; living with mental or physical health problems and alcohol dependence; are pregnant or planning to be pregnant; or are told not to drink for legal, medical or other reasons. Delay drinking to late adolescence if you are a child or youth and follow local alcohol laws and stay within the drinking limits.


The Cost to Business

  • The estimated cost to Ontario of alcohol and substance abuse is $9.2 billion a year. This includes health care, law enforcement and lost labour productivity 5
  • Hangovers cost employers in absenteeism and poor job performance. Hangover-like symptoms result in reduced cognitive abilities putting workers at risk for personal injury and injury to others 6
  • In Canada, $1.4 billion is lost each year because of decreased productivity caused by hangovers 6
  • People with diabetes incur medical costs that are two to three times higher than those without diabetes. A person with diabetes can face direct costs for medication and supplies ranging from $1,000 to $15,000 a year 4


Strategies for Workplaces & Employees

What Can the Workplace Do? What Can Employees Do?

Use a comprehensive approach:

Education and Awareness Strategies

  • Educate employees about the impact of alcohol on health through displays and presentations
  • Create awareness about the Low-Risk Drinking Guidelines through brochures (PDF) and other print materials

Workplace Policy

  • Develop a workplace alcohol policy that will help to increase productivity, reduce safety risks, improve employee health and reduce employer liability. See some sample policies.
  • Ensure employees are aware of the policy and consistently enforce it

Create a Supportive Environment

  • Create a workplace environment where alcohol is not encouraged
  • Set a positive example and “walk the talk”
  • Provide training to supervisors so they can recognize a problem and have the skills to intervene appropriately
  • Provide support to employees and offer the services of an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). If you do not have an EAP, consider starting one.
  • Evaluate your current drinking patterns)
  • Follow Canada's Low Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines to avoid drinking too much
  • If you do not drink, don’t start
  • Engage in healthy lifestyle choices: eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, be smoke-free and try to maintain a positive work-life balance to avoid stress
  • Seek support from your Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
  • If you are concerned about how your drinking may affect your health, talk to your doctor or health care professional
  • For more information about resources and support, contact Peel Health


Facts & Stats

  • Some studies suggest that light to moderate alcohol consumption may lead to a decreased risk for diabetes. 3 However; it is not recommended for those who do not drink alcohol to start drinking.
  • Male drinkers exceed the daily/weekly limits for alcohol more often than women 1
  • 25% of drinkers report binge drinking at least once a month (5 or more drinks on a single occasion for men and four or more drinks on a single occasion for women) 1
  • Many binge drinkers are absent from work or are less productive while drinking or experiencing a hangover 6



1 Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse. (2004). Canadian addiction survey. Ottawa, ON.
2 Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines. Retrieved December 01, 2011 from
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
3 Telner, A. (2002). Alcohol, diabetes and health: A review. Canadian Journal of Diabetes, 26(3): 378-381.
4 Canadian Diabetes Association. (2009). The prevalence and costs of diabetes. Retrieved on July 17, 2009 from http://www.diabetes.ca/diabetes-and-you/what/prevalence/
5 Alcohol Policy Network & Ontario Public Health Association. (2001). Let’s take action on alcohol problems in the workplace. Toronto, ON.
6 Wiese, J. G. et al. (2000). The alcohol hangover. Annals of Internal Medicine, 132 (11).

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Revised: July 04, 2014


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