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How coffee affects blood sugar levels

If you have type 2 diabetes, your body no longer uses insulin well, and here is how the body reacts after drinking caffeinated beverages.

Most people consume caffeine every day, no matter where it comes from – from coffee, tea or chocolate. For healthy people, this is usually a harmless daily routine, but if you have type 2 diabetes, caffeine can make it harder to control your blood sugar.

How caffeine affects blood sugar

An increasing number of studies indicate that people with type 2 diabetes react differently to caffeine. Caffeine has been shown to increase blood sugar levels as well as insulin levels in affected individuals. One study looked at people with type 2 diabetes who took a 250-milligram tablet of caffeine for breakfast and another during lunch. That’s about the same amount as drinking two cups of coffee. The result showed that their blood sugar was 8% higher than during the day when they did not take caffeine. Their sugar level was also increased by a few units after each meal. Experts explain that this happens because caffeine can affect how your body reacts to insulin, a hormone that allows sugar to reach our cells and be converted into energy.

Caffeine reduces insulin sensitivity

Scientists have discovered that caffeine can reduce the sensitivity of cells to insulin. This means that our cells no longer respond to that hormone as they used to. They do not absorb as much sugar from the blood after a person eats or drinks, which leads to our body producing more insulin and therefore its level is higher after a meal.

If you have type 2 diabetes, your body does not use insulin well. After a meal, blood sugar rises more than normal, and caffeine can make it harder for sufferers to reduce their sugar to normal. All this can lead to too high blood sugar levels. Over time, this can increase the chances of diabetes complications, such as nerve damage or heart disease.

Why does caffeine have this effect?

Scientists are still researching how caffeine affects insulin and blood sugar levels, but they think it could work as follows:

  • Caffeine raises the level of certain stress hormones, such as epinephrine (also called adrenaline), and epinephrine can prevent our cells from processing so much sugar.
  • Caffeine can prevent our body from producing sufficient amounts of insulin
  • Caffeine blocks a protein called adenosine. This molecule plays a big role in the amount of insulin our body produces, and caffeine controls how cells respond to it.
  • Caffeine retains adenosine which plays a big role in the amount of insulin our body produces
  • Too much caffeine can keep us awake, and lack of sleep can also reduce insulin sensitivity.

What is meant by “too much caffeine”

It only takes about 200 milligrams of caffeine to affect blood sugar. This is the amount that can be found in one or two cups of brewed coffee or three or four cups of black tea. The reaction of someone’s organism to the amount of caffeine is individual, different, because the body’s response depends on factors such as age and weight of the person.

People with diabetes who drink coffee regularly do not have higher blood sugar levels than those who do not. Some experts think that our body will get used to that amount of caffeine over time. But other research shows that caffeine could still cause a jump in glucose, especially if you always start the day with a cup of black drink.

To find out if caffeine raises your blood sugar, you should talk to your doctor or dietitian. You can test your blood sugar in the morning, after drinking your usual cup of coffee or tea. You will then test your glucose level a few days after you stopped drinking coffee. When you compare these two results, you will know if and how caffeine affects your blood sugar level.

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