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Caffeine and Blood Sugar Control

Caffeine and Blood Sugar Control

Does anyone remember this catchy jingle, “The Best Part of Wakin’ Up is Folgers in Your Cup!”?

Coffee in the morning

For many of us, having a cup of coffee in the morning is part of the daily routine. Coffee along with tea and soda are three major sources of caffeine. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), 80 percent of adults in the U.S. consume caffeine every day.

Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant that is commonly used to increase alertness and decrease drowsiness. It is a naturally occurring substance found in more than 60 plants. The average adult consumes 300 mg of caffeine each day.

I recently read an article from the Journal of Caffeine Research: Caffeine, Glucose Metabolism, and Type 2 Diabetes. This article reviewed a number of studies showing evidence that moderate caffeine intake (200-350 mg/day) may increase insulin resistance as well as increase the glucose response to carbohydrate intake.

Could coffee prevent you from reaching your glycemic goals?

Insulin resistance is a characteristic feature of type 2 diabetes. For those who do not have diabetes, being insulin resistant increases the risk of developing pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes.

The exact mechanism of how caffeine increases insulin resistance is unknown. One proposed explanation is that caffeine stimulates the release of stress hormones (epinephrine and cortisol), which have hyperglycemic effects, stimulating the liver to produce glucose and inhibit insulin action.

According to a diabetes educator, Gary Scheiner, author of Think Like a Pancreas, caffeine causes blood sugar to raise by promoting the break down of fat (instead of glucose) for energy in addition to stimulating the liver to produce glucose.

Should you eliminate caffeine completely?

The article from the Journal of Caffeine Research concluded that more research is needed to determine if those with type 2 diabetes or those at risk for the disease should abstain from caffeine.

Until more research is done, you can test yourself

Consider checking your blood sugar 1-2 hours after a meal in which you consumed a caffeinated beverage. How does your blood sugar compare to when you have no caffeine at a meal? If you notice that your blood sugar is consistently elevated it may be worthwhile to cut back on your caffeine intake.

How much caffeine is in your favorite beverages?

Beverage Amount Caffeine (mg)
Coffee, Brewed 8 oz 163
Espresso 1.5 oz 77
Black Tea 8 oz 42
Green Tea 8 oz 25
Diet Coke 12 oz 46
Diet Pepsi 12 oz 34
Diet Mountain Dew 12 oz 54
Sugar Free Red Bull 8.46 80

What are some good caffeine alternatives?

Beverage Amount Caffeine (mg)
Decaf Coffee, Brewed 8 oz 6
Herbal Tea 8 oz 0
Diet Sprite 12 oz 0
Diet Sierra Mist 12 oz 0
Diet Tonic Water 12 oz 0

Other tips:

  • Make sure you are getting enough sleep. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend adults get 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night. Feeling well-rested may decrease your need for caffeine.
  • Are you nervous about going cold turkey? Consider substituting half of your regular coffee with half decaf. As you adjust to the change you can gradually decrease the regular coffee amount and increase the decaf coffee amount.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.