Glycemic Index and Alcohol

Can The GI Of Alcohol Be Measured?

Alcoholic drinks usually contain few carbohydrates - with a possible exception of cocktail drinks whose ingredients may be mixed in with other food items.

The low carbohydrate content of alcoholic drinks makes it impossible to test an alcoholic drinks glycemic index as testing the glycemic index involves giving subjects food items with 25g or 50g of carbohydrate.

Many alcoholic drinks have virtually no carbohydrate value and to achieve the 25 g for testing, large volumes would need to be consumed making glycemic index measurement impractical.

Beer Glycemic Index

Of the different types of alcoholic beverage, beer usually contains the larger number of carbohydrates.

Beer Glycemic Index

However the number is still low relative to most food items with only around 3-4g of carbohydrate per 100ml.

For example a 300ml beer will have around 10g of carbohydrate compared to around 36g for a soft drink of similar volume.

Drinking beer will increase blood glucose levels slightly and drunk to excess will raise them much more. However beer glycemic index can not be tested due to its low carbohydrate content.

Experiments can only show fluctuations in blood glucose levels following consumption and are not able to rank beer on the glycemic index scale.

There have been misconceptions regarding beer, glycemic index and carbohydrates published by proponents of certain diets. For example, Dr. Arthur Agatston author of 'The South Beach Diet' states that beer should be excluded from a weight loss diet claiming that beer is high in the carbohydrate, maltose (a form of sugar).

However maltose is only present during the beers early brewing stages and is eliminated when yeast, another ingredient of beer converts the maltose to alcohol and carbonation. This 'sugar turns to alcohol' stage means the carbohydrate value of beer is low making it impossible to test beer glycemic index.

If beer is excluded from a diet to aid weight loss it should be excluded for its calorific content and not for its level of carbohydrates (nor for its glycemic index if the beer could be tested).

Regular beers of around 350ml contain about 160 calories. Drank in moderation beer can have little impact on weight gain.

In moderation beer and other forms of alcohol may have health benefits preventing heart disease and diabetes.

Glycemic Index Of Wine

Most wines, including red and white, contain almost no carbohydrate content so testing the glycemic index is not possible.

Glycemic Index Of Vodka

Vodka and many other distilled alcoholic drinks contain practically no carbohydrates. This makes it impossible to find the glycemic index of vodka.

Due to the low carbohydrate content, the glycemic index of all alcoholic drinks including beer, wine and distilled drinks is zero as they can't be tested.