Moderate alcohol consumption associates with lower risk of type 2 diabetes, but in postprandial studies, alcohol induced impaired insulin sensitivity. The measurement of the glycemic index (GI) for beer has been considered challenging because of its low carbohydrate content. Therefore, imputed GI values from 36 to 95 on the basis of carbohydrate-rich beverages have been used for beer in epidemiologic studies.
We investigated the acute effects of alcohol on glucose and insulin responses and measured GIs and insulinemic indexes (IIs) of nonalcoholic and alcoholic beers.
In a crossover design, 10 healthy volunteers were served beer with 4.5% alcohol by volume, nonalcoholic beer, and a glucose solution with alcohol once and the reference glucose solution twice. Each portion contained 25 g available carbohydrate, and the beer and glucose solution with alcohol contained 21 g alcohol. Capillary blood samples were collected up to 2 h after ingestion, and the incremental AUCs (IAUCs), GIs, and IIs were calculated.
Compared with the reference glucose solution, the glucose solution with alcohol produced an 18% higher postprandial glucose IAUC (P = 0.03) and had no significant effect on the insulin IAUC. Compared with the reference glucose solution, beer had no significant effect on glucose or insulin IAUCs, and nonalcoholic beer tended to reduce the glucose IAUC (P = 0.06) but not the insulin IAUC. GIs of beer and nonalcoholic beer were 119 and 80, and IIs were 130 and 88, respectively.
Alcohol increases the postprandial glucose response, probably through impaired insulin sensitivity. GI values published for alcohol-containing beers have underestimated the true glycemic effects.