by Chris Ruden
Diabetes & Caffeine
Ah, caffeine! The euphoric happiness elexor that brings joy to any morning and makes people’s stupidity just a little more bearable.
I love caffeine.
And if you are an extremist like me, you probably drink caffeine almost as much as you take insulin. I never really considered caffeine’s role in diabetes until I recently came across a peer reviewed study that I stared at for hours [read: minutes] because I didn’t like what I read. After that, I began looking deeper into caffeine’s infamous role in diabetes and here is what I found.
Benefits of Caffeine
Aside from the awesome mood boost, caffeine was originally thought to improve symptoms in type 2 diabetics and reduce the risk of diabetes all together along with other diseases and complications.
A big study conducted on coffee and its benefits led people to assume caffeine was the beneficial culprit but we now know otherwise.
When both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee was studied in diabetics, research showed caffeinated coffee still rose blood sugars. Later, researchers suggested it may be other properties in coffee that can be beneficial and switching to decaf coffee (brown water) might be a better alternative for people with impaired glucose tolerance.
The original findings of coffee being beneficial for blood sugar and preventing type II diabetics was mistaking attributed to caffeine.
Here are some other not so cool effects of caffeine on us diabetics.
Caffeine consumption produces an overall mood enhancing vibe yet some effects are strikingly comparable to hypoglycemia (except caffeine feels a lot better). Hypo-like symptoms signal to the brain that you need food and can act as an appetite stimulant. If you are dieting and already miserable because you are in a calorie deficit, the last thing you want is an increase in appetite.
Reduced Insulin Sensitivity
Increasing insulin sensitivity helps take less insulin to control blood sugars and is a huge benefit from exercising. Studies suggest that caffeine ingestion contributes to insulin resistance and can impair glucose and insulin homeostasis. It’s kind of ironic that some of us, including me, take pre workout with enough caffeine to wake the dead but also use exercise as a method for improved insulin sensitivity.
Raises Blood sugar
The last thing any of us want is high or uncontrolled blood sugar. Caffeine— more specifically coffee— increased blood sugar in multiple studies “suggesting an acute caffeine-induced impairment in blood glucose management.”(https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18469247) While this does seem to suck pretty bad, there is always multiple perspectives!
Recall that exercise can cause hypoglycemia, especially in moderate activity levels: “Caffeine intake should be considered as another strategy that may modestly attenuate hypoglycemia in individuals with Type 1 diabetes during exercise”. That is pretty much saying “go slam some caffeine and get to it!”. Unfortunately, that tactic doesn’t really apply for higher intensity exercise modalities. But for moderate activity levels, it may be beneficial– I just don’t know if I’d personally risk trying it when I’m in a low blood sugar panic.
Personally, I’d rather have a cookie than some caffeine– but that’s just me!
Caffeine No More?
While research does suggest caffeine can increase blood sugar, I feel that knowing this fact can help what you choose to do in managing your diabetes.
Knowledge is power just as caffeine is life.
We must find a way for diabetes and caffeine to coexist.
Have you found coffee, caffeine, or pre-workout to affect your blood sugars? Try your own little experiment to see what changes, if any, you get with and without caffeine. Let me know what you find!
– Petrie HJ, Chown SE, Belfie LM, Duncan AM, McLaren DH, Conquer JA, Graham TE. 2004. Caffeine ingestion increases the insulin response to an oral-glucose-tolerance test in obese men before and after weight loss. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 80(1):22-8.
-21 Graham, T.E., Sathasivam, P., Rowland, M., Marko, N., Greer, F. and Battram, D. 2001. Caffeine ingestion elevates plasma insulin response in humans during an oral glucose tolerance test. Canadian Journal of physiology and pharmacology. 78(7):559-65.