Dr Aidin Rawshani

Coffee and diabetes: effects, risks, causes and recommendations


The effect of coffee on diabetes, when presented in the media, can often be confusing.

Coffee has been condemned several times as bad for your health. It is common with different perceptions of coffee and its effect on diabetes. In news magazines mixed results are presented, some describe the benefits of coffee, and others argue that coffee can adversely affect blood sugar levels. This does not mean that the articles are contradictory though. Among other things, there is evidence that coffee can protect against certain types of tumor diseases, liver disease and even depression.

There is also convincing research that shows that those who increase their coffee intake can actually reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. This is good news for those of us who cannot help but drink coffee.

But for those who already have type 2 diabetes, coffee can have negative effects. In short, coffee contains various chemicals, some of which have positive effects, while others may have a less beneficial effect, such as caffeine, which may impair the action of insulin in the short term.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease that affects how your body handles blood sugar. Blood glucose, also known as blood sugar, is important because it is what drives the brain and gives energy to muscles and tissues.

If you have diabetes, it means that you have too much glucose circulating in your blood. This happens when your body develops reduced sensitivity to insulin and is no longer able to effectively absorb glucose into the cells.

Excess glucose in the blood can cause serious health problems. There are a number of different factors that can cause diabetes.

Chronic forms of diabetes include type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. Other types include gestational diabetes, which occurs during pregnancy, but tends to disappear after birth.

Prediabetes means that your blood sugar levels are higher than usual but not so high that you would be diagnosed with diabetes.

Signs and symptoms of diabetes include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Unexplainable weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability

If you think you may have any of these symptoms, it is important to talk to your doctor.

Caffeine and blood sugar levels

Regular high caffeine consumption, over a 4-week period, has been shown to impair insulin sensitivity in people with type 2 diabetes. While the researchers found a correlation between higher coffee consumption and lower sensitivity to insulin in the body, they realized that the rapid transition from low coffee consumption to very high coffee consumption in the study participants may have led to an atypical or stressed reaction from the body.

Although caffeine is shown to have adverse effects on insulin sensitivity, studies show that coffee can protect against type 2 diabetes, these are mainly observational population studies showing a statistically significant risk reduction in those who consume a lot of coffee. However, this cannot be confirmed in clinical controlled trials, while it is difficult to control for other factors in such types of studies.

Benefits of coffee

Coffee reduces the risk of the following pathological conditions:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Cancer – such as endometrial cancer and aggressive prostate cancer
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Stroke
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease

Coffee contains polyphenols, which are a molecule as antioxidants commonly considered to help prevent inflammatory diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, and anticarcinogenic (anti-cancer) properties.

In addition to polyphenols, coffee contains mineral magnesium and chromium. Greater magnesium intake has been linked to lower levels of type 2 diabetes.

The mixture of these nutrients can be helpful in improving insulin sensitivity, which can help to compensate for the opposite effects of caffeine.

Coffee can prevent diabetes

The health benefits of coffee for diabetes differ from case to case. Researchers at Harvard examined over 100,000 people for about 20 years, conclusions from this study were published in 2014. They found that people who increased their coffee intake by over one cup a day had an 11% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Individuals who reduced their coffee intake by one cup per day increased the risk of developing diabetes by 17 percent. There was no difference in drinking tea.

A 2009 study examined about 40,000 participants and noted that those who consume 3 cups of tea or coffee per day have a 40% lower relative risk of type 2 diabetes.

Decaffeinated coffee and blood glucose

So while caffeine can inhibit insulin sensitivity and affect glucose levels, coffee has other properties that have an opposite effect.

It is therefore believed that decaffeinated coffee may be the best option for people with diabetes, scientists argue that decaffeinated coffee contains the benefits of coffee but without any of the negative effects associated with caffeine.

In a small study involving only men, it was found that decaffeinated coffee for an inexplicable reason causes an acute increase in blood sugar. At the moment, there are limited studies and more research is needed on the effects of caffeine and diabetes.

Effect of coffee on glucose and insulin

Although coffee can be beneficial for protecting people against diabetes, some studies have shown that ordinary black coffee can pose risks for people who already have type 2 diabetes.

Caffeine, blood glucose and insulin (before and after meals)

A 2004 study showed that a caffeine tablet before eating resulted in higher blood sugar after a meal in people with type 2 diabetes. It also showed an increase in insulin resistance.

According to a recent study, there may be a genetic advocate involved. Genes can play a role in the metabolism of caffeine and how it affects blood sugar. In this study, it was found that some people metabolized caffeine more slowly, causing higher blood sugar levels than those who metabolized caffeine more quickly.

The study also showed that long-term effects of coffee and caffeine can be linked to a lower risk of pre-diabetes and diabetes. The “tolerability” effect seen with long-term consumption of coffee takes a very long time to develop.

Latte and syrup in coffee

Some varieties of coffee, people with diabetes need to be careful with it. Coffee with syrup has become a much more popular range of coffee in the 21st century but can be problematic for people with or at risk of diabetes.

If you have diabetes or are at risk of diabetes, it is advisable to reduce your exposure to too much sugar. If you want to enjoy a cup of coffee with syrup, choose the smaller cups and drink slowly to reduce the dramatic increase in blood sugar and better appreciate the taste.

Another modern trend is latte in coffee, a milk-hot coffee. If you drink coffee with a latte, it makes sense to keep track of the number of calories in the latte and the number of carbohydrates.

While low-fat latte is usually made with skim milk, some of them can be sweetened, which increases their calories. Milk, whether low-fat or skimmed, tends to have about 5 g of carbohydrates per 100 g. A regular, unsweetened low-fat coffee latte can usually contain somewhere between 10 and 15 g of carbohydrates.

Coffee with added ingredients

If you do not have diabetes but are worried about developing the disease, then be careful before increasing your coffee intake. There may be a positive effect of coffee in its pure form. However, the benefits are not the same for coffee drinks with added sweeteners or dairy products.

Creamy, sweet drinks that are found on cafe chains are often loaded with unhealthy carbohydrates. They are also very high in calories. The effect of sugar and fat in coffee and espresso drinks can affect the possible protective effect of the coffee.

The same can be said about sugar-sweetened and even artificially sweetened coffee and other drinks. When sweeteners are added, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes increases. Consuming too many added sugars is directly linked to diabetes and obesity.

Most large coffee chains offer options with fewer carbohydrates and fat.

Caffeine and common side effects

  • Headache
  • Restlessness
  • Increased blood sugar levels after a meal
  • Increased risk of heartburn
  • An increase in blood lipids (cholesterol) when using unfiltered or espresso type coffee

Starting to drink coffee to reduce the risk of diabetes will not guarantee you a good result. But if you already drink coffee, it may not do any harm. Try to reduce the amount of sugar or fat you drink with your coffee. Also talk to your doctor about diet options, exercise and the effects that drinking coffee can have. Feel free to avoid dark roasted coffee.

Roasted coffee beans

Roasting coffee means heating the coffee to very high temperatures, this converts the chemical and physical properties of green coffee beans into roasted coffee products.

The roasting process is what gives the characteristic taste of coffee by making the green coffee beans change the taste. The unroasted beans contain about as much if not higher levels of acids, protein, sugar and caffeine as those that have been roasted, but lack flavor. During roasting, other chemical reactions occur that lead to the production of Acrylamide, too high levels of this substance lead to damage to the nervous system and increase the risk of cancer.

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