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  • Writer's pictureShruti GOCHHWAL

How Does Caffeine Affect Diabetes and Blood Sugar Levels?

A common misconception about caffeine is that it is another word for “coffee”. Coffee is a type of caffeine but not all caffeine products are coffee.

Caffeine is a stimulant of the central nervous system. This means that it is a psychoactive drug that blocks the action of adenosine, a neurotransmitter that induces sleep. This is why a cup of coffee instantly wakes you up in the morning.

Besides coffee, this drug can be found in teas, chocolates, alcohols, cocoa, soft drinks and energy drinks.

Despite caffeine products being popularly consumed, some of its properties are surprisingly not known.

The effects of caffeine on the blood sugar level and diabetes is a commonly debated topic among researchers.

What is Diabetes?

The endocrine function of the pancreas is to produce a hormone known as insulin.

Insulin is a hormone that is responsible for controlling the levels of sugar in your blood or stores it for future use.

To produce energy, the body cells cannot absorb the required amount of sugar directly. The attachment of the sugar to the body cells can only be stimulated by the release of insulin.

In case of diabetes, the human body either cannot produce insulin (type 1) or becomes resistant to insulin (type 2). Thus, the sugar in the blood can neither be stored or utilised in the form of energy, leading to high blood sugar levels.

Insulin Resistance And Sensitivity

Insulin resistance and sensitivity are one in the same. When someone is insulin resistant, it means that they have low sensitivity.

It could be caused by high fructose intake, oxidative stress, inflammation and genetics.

Credit: pexels Alth tag : blood test

Effects of Caffeine on Diabetes

Caffeine is known to affect insulin sensitivity, meaning how well the body will respond to insulin. Therefore, it is more associated with type 2 diabetes.

Some studies claim that caffeine increases the body’s sensitivity to insulin. Though, a majority of them lean towards the conclusion that it reduces sensitivity.

This is because caffeine raises levels of hormones like adrenaline that prevents cells from processing sugar and limits the body’s production of insulin.

In addition, it blocks adenosine and further raises the sugar levels.

Loss of sleep due to caffeine consumption may also be another reason why it reduces sensitivity.

Credit: pexels Caption: loss of sleep due to caffeine

On the other hand, despite all the unpromising studies on the effects of caffeine, the consumption of coffee has surprisingly proven to be beneficial for diabetes.

Harvard researchers reported in their 20 year study that people who increased their coffee intake had a 11% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Although the surprising success was unclear, other studies seem to back up this theory.

Researchers believed the reason behind this success was the additional antioxidant nature present in coffee. Inflammation can increase the chances of diseases including diabetes and antioxidants can suppress this inflammation.

Moreover, it contains some minerals like magnesium that could also prevent type 2 diabetes.

Time of Consumption

Insulin sensitivity is also triggered at different times of the day for a diabetic patients. Thus, adding the consumption of caffeine and making the body even more resistant to insulin would have harmful side effects.

In some cases like the ” Dawn Phenomenon”, there is an abnormal increase in the blood sugar levels during early-morning around 2am – 8am. Around this time, the person should avoid intake of any caffeine products and drink their coffee after this period has passed.

Credits: pexels Caption : Cup of coffee

Should You Drink Coffee?

The downside in the consumption of caffeine is that it can often become a habit and the person could soon become dependent on it. We must also take into consideration the temptations of a diabetic and how difficult it is for them to deal with being tempted by food products that they are

advised to not consume.

The main problem arises when the person prefers to drink coffee with sweeteners, creamers and extra flavours. These products are purely carbohydrates and they highly increase the blood sugar level.

In conclusion, as long as the coffee consumed by diabetics is unsweetened, it can be consumed upto 200 milligrams a day. 

Credit: Flickr

You Could Switch To Decaf : Alternative

If you’re still not convinced or assured and want to eliminate caffeine completely from your diet, decaf is always a good option.

Decaffeination is the process where caffeine is completely (or almost completely) eliminated from products like coffee, teas, chocolates and cocoa. Even if there was a little amount of caffeine left, it would have next to no impact on blood sugar levels.

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