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Are Caffeine Jitters Bad for Your Blood Sugar? (April 2008)

Research shows that caffeine in coffee, tea, and soda may interfere with the metabolic process and make it difficult for people with Type 2 diabetes to control blood sugar levels. As a result, reducing caffeine consumption may help diabetics keep glucose levels down.

How Caffeine Affects the Metabolic Process

Type 2 diabetes is a condition in which glucose levels in the body are too high due to a lack of insulin, the hormone that breaks down sugars in the metabolic process to create energy for cell use. When glucose is not transported to the cells to be burned for energy, the blood sugar level in the body rises. If glucose levels are not controlled properly, the following health problems can occur:

  • damage to the eyes, kidneys, and nerves

  • heart disease

  • stroke

  • limb amputations

Studies show that too much caffeine can interfere with the process that brings glucose to the cells and allows it to be used as energy. In addition, caffeine causes adrenaline to be released in the body, which also causes blood sugar levels to rise.

Research Studies

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, ( one study conducted by researchers at Duke University Medical Center found that giving caffeine to subjects with Type 2 diabetes caused their glucose levels to rise during the day, particularly after meals. In addition, when they were given an amount of caffeine equal to that which is contained in four cups of coffee, their glucose levels were 8 percent higher than on days when they were given placebo pills.

Because caffeine may adversely affect the body’s ability to metabolize sugar in Type 2 diabetics, it may be easier for these individuals to control glucose levels by avoiding caffeine. However, if they do choose to drink coffee, tea, or other caffeinated beverages, it may be beneficial to do so in moderation.

The Dual Nature of Coffee

While Type 2 diabetics may benefit from limiting their caffeine consumption, research studies indicate that drinking coffee may reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by up to 60 percent compared with people who do not drink coffee at all.

However, because caffeine seems to have an adverse effect on diabetics, it is probable that the benefits of coffee for non-diabetics are not due to the caffeine content. For this reason, decaffeinated coffee may help diabetics control blood sugar better than eliminating coffee altogether.



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