Type 2 diabetics: Beware the risks of caffeine

June 01, 2021 4 min read

Caffeine and diabetes

People with type 2 diabetes should take care not to start ingesting caffeine if their body is not used to the stimulant. The caffeine can interfere with the body's ability to regulate blood sugar levels at a normal level.

It can be hard to avoid caffeine if you drink coffee, tea, energy drinks, or eat chocolate. It is in all those comestibles and more.

But it's important for people with type 2 diabetes to know that caffeine can actually raise blood sugar levels.

WebMd says a growing body of research has found this effect [1]:

One study looked at people with type 2 diabetes who took a 250-milligram caffeine pill at breakfast and another at lunchtime. That’s about the same amount as drinking two cups of coffee with each meal. The result: Their blood sugar was 8% higher than on days when they didn’t have caffeine. Their reading also jumped by more after each meal.

The increase in blood sugar was a result of how their bodies responded to insulin, a hormone that lets sugar into your cells, where it changes into energy.

Scientists speculate that the caffeine lowers the body's sensitivity to insulin, meaning the hormone is not as effective as it once was. The cells don't absorb as much sugar from the blood after eating or drinking. To compensate, the body creates more insulin, which raises its level after your meals.

It's a double whammy because the body already uses insulin poorly, and blood sugar rises higher than it should. Caffeine might make this worse and make it hard to reduce blood sugar to healthy levels.

In time, the complications of diabetes, like heart disease or nerve damage, could become worse from the higher blood sugar induced by caffeine consumption.

Why does caffeine raise blood sugar?

Researchers are still studying why caffeine might raise blood sugar and cause more insulin production. Their research has led to tentatively conclude:

  • Caffeine may raises the levels of adrenaline and other stress hormones. Adrenaline can reduce the amount of sugar that your cells process, and it keep the body from producing the normal amount of insulin
  • Caffeine blocks production of a protein, adenosine, which helps the body produce insulin and regulates how your cells respond to the insulin.
  • Caffeine affects some people's sleep patterns, causing them to get less sleep. Sleep deprivation is suspected of lowering sensitivity to insulin.

How much caffeine is too much?

For diabetics, it takes about 200 mg of caffeine to increase your blood sugar levels. That's the same as 1 or 2 cups of coffee or 3 or 4 cups of tea. But the amount of caffeine that triggers the reaction in diabetics could be more or less depending on your weight and age.

WebMd says:

How much caffeine you usually get may also play a role. People with diabetes who are regular coffee drinkers don’t have higher blood sugar levels than those who aren’t. Some experts think your body gets used to that amount of over time. But other research shows that caffeine could still cause a spike, even if you always start your day with a cup of joe.

WebMd advises speaking to your doctor and testing your blood for sugar throughout the morning after you take caffeine. Then skip the caffeine for a few days, test your blood, and compare the results to see if caffeine is affecting your sugar levels.

Dr. Oz explains that he believes diabetes can be reversed.

Regular coffee drinking may prevent diabetes!

The funny thing is, regular coffee consumption might result in lowers odds of getting type 2 diabetes because of all the antioxidants. The antioxidants reduce inflammation in the body. Inflammation can increase a person's chance of getting diabetes.

WebMd concludes:

If you already have type 2 diabetes, this may not hold true. The caffeine in a cup of java makes it tougher to control your blood sugar. If yours spikes after your morning cup, you may want to switch to decaf. Even though this drink has a tiny amount of caffeine, it doesn’t have the same effect on your blood sugar or insulin.

A study at Harvard tracked more than 100,000 people over 20 years [4]. The study says it found 7,269 cases of type 2 diabetes. Subjects who increased coffee drinking by more than 1 cup per day over a 4-year period had an 11% lower risk of type 2 than those whose coffee consumption did not change.

Further, "Participants who decreased their coffee intake by more than 1 cup/day ... had a 17% higher risk for type 2 diabetes. Changes in tea consumption were not associated with type 2 diabetes risk."

What are the symptoms of diabetes?

Some of the signs of diabetes are fatigue, thirstiness, unexplained weight loss, and irritability. If you notice any of these, it's a good idea to talk to a doctor.

Diabetes is an important topic because about 34 million Americans have it. Another 88 million Americans have pre-diabetes, meaning their blood sugar is too high and they are at risk for getting the disease [2].

The disease interferes with how you process blood sugar or blood glucose, the stuff that fuels your brain, tissues, organs and muscles. It happens when you have too much sugar in your blood because your body has become resistant to insulin and unable to take glucose into your cells efficiently [3].

Sources:

[1] https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/diabetes-and-caffeine

[2] https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/library/features/diabetes-stat-report.html

[3] https://www.healthline.com/health/coffee-s-effect-diabetes#diabetes

[4] https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00125-014-3235-7

Mark Miller
Mark Miller



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