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When remembering of our alcoholic favorite drinks, we think of the fun times we’ve had them. We don’t think of the sugar in our cocktail of choice. Sugar and alcohol go hand-in-hand, and cocktails, liquors, and other types of alcohol can range widely in sugar content. We all know the adage, “moderation is key,” by now, but it’s especially true when it comes to what we’re drinking.

Nutritionist Emily Laurence breaks down how the sugar in alcohol can add to damage done to our bodies. Sugar ferments with yeast to create alcohol. So, depending on the type of alcohol and the length of the fermentation process, some adult beverages will have more sugar than others. For example, beer surprisingly has little amounts of unfermented sugar, and the sugar in the final product is so small that it’s used as carbohydrates.

Wines can range drastically in sugar content. Dry wine is traditionally almost sugar free because of the lengthy fermentation process, while sweet wines are overloaded with sugar. Wine can range from less than one teaspoon of sugar per glass to almost four.

Hard liquor and spirits are complicated to pin down, because it depends on the ingredient used in the fermentation process. Ingredients aren’t as clearly labeled, therefore when it comes to making a drink, you can’t be fully aware of its sugar content. For example, added flavoring or artificial sweetener added to the alcohol can upset the balance of natural sugars. In addition, very sugary substances used to mix cocktails can result in overconsumption of sugar.

Sugar and Alcohol Affect the Body

Sugar and alcohol have a lot of similar effects on the human body. We know why too much alcohol is dangerous. It can result in impaired motor functions, high blood pressure, and liver damage. Sugar also has an addictive nature and can result in obesity and high blood pressure too. Both sugar and alcohol can actively disrupt the body’s ability to create and regulate insulin, resulting in high blood sugar, which can be dangerous for those with diabetes.  

As always, the solution is never as simple as cutting alcohol out completely. Sometimes that the right thing to do, depending on your unique situation; however, it doesn’t have to be the first step. Just like with sugar, alcohol is a part of our culture and society. It can be a nice treat, but overindulging has a negative impact, even if it’s just a nasty hangover. The Council for Retirement Security is all about seniors retiring well, and for some that means enjoying retirement with a drink. Drinking and consuming sugar in moderation means we get to enjoy a longer retirement.