Coffee has been found to have many health benefits, with the most recent one being its ability to help people with diabetes maintain healthy blood sugar levels. So does coffee really help with diabetes? Or is it yet another fad? We decided to investigate this topic and find out whether this common beverage could be useful in preventing the onset of type 2 diabetes, as well as treating the disease if you already have it. Here’s what we found.
Coffee and Diabetes
When consumed in moderation, coffee may have some positive health benefits. In particular, a number of observational studies suggest that moderate coffee consumption is associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus. One study even found that higher coffee consumption led to lower fasting insulin levels and less insulin resistance. If you’re looking for how to improve your blood sugar levels naturally and are wondering if coffee can help, here’s what you need to know.
What is Diabetes?
It's a chronic condition in which your body can't make enough insulin or use it properly. Insulin is a hormone that enables your body to turn food into energy. When you have diabetes, either not enough insulin is produced or your body can't respond correctly. This causes glucose (sugar) levels in your blood to rise above normal levels, known as hyperglycemia. Hyperglycemia has many negative effects on your health, including eye damage and heart disease. Over time, diabetes can lead to amputation of toes, feet or legs and even death.
How Coffee Can Help With Diabetes
Multiple studies show coffee has health benefits that can help prevent chronic diseases and aid in weight loss. One study from Johns Hopkins University showed a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes for regular coffee drinkers, even for those who consumed upwards of 16 cups per day. The antioxidants in coffee may also protect against certain types of cancer, like liver cancer, which is actually twice as common in people with diabetes than people without it. These are similar to the health benefits of blueberries. Reducing blood sugar spikes by adding a little caffeine can also help diabetics avoid spikes that lead to serious complications.
What Are The “Active Ingredients” in Coffee?
When it comes to coffee, people focus a lot on caffeine content. But there are more than 500 compounds found in coffee beans, including chlorogenic acids, quinides and alkaloids. Caffeine is just one of many different chemical compounds that provide health benefits from drinking coffee. Chlorogenic acids are major antioxidant molecules. When consumed, they can increase metabolic rate by 10% and help you lose body fat. And quinides have been shown to protect LDL cholesterol from becoming oxidized—which can be especially helpful for those who have diabetes or at risk for developing it. Chlorogenic acids and quinides are also known for boosting metabolism and helping control blood sugar levels—two things that anyone with diabetes would benefit from!
Coffee’s Effect on Glucose and Insulin
Caffeine is a known stimulant, causing your body to produce more adrenaline and more glucose. Drinking coffee—one cup actually contains about 100 mg of caffeine—causes your blood sugar levels to rise, but it doesn’t necessarily spike insulin production. In fact, studies have shown that caffeine can lower insulin resistance—helping people with type 2 diabetes manage their disease symptoms better. Several recent studies show that drinking two cups of coffee per day also lowers risk of type 2 diabetes by 7-18%. There's even evidence that drinking four cups a day may decrease mortality rates in women!
How Does Caffeine Affect Your Blood Sugar?
Caffeine is known to help with alertness, but it can also have a significant impact on blood sugar. In one study, participants were given either regular or decaffeinated coffee before their blood glucose was tested every 30 minutes for two hours. While both groups had an immediate rise in blood sugar levels after drinking their coffee, people who drank decaf had almost a 50% increase in insulin release—the opposite of what you want if you're trying to lower your A1C (an indicator of long-term diabetes management). This makes sense as caffeine increases insulin secretion—and that rise is directly linked to a heightened risk of diabetes. Now, let's be clear: we aren't saying you need to give up your morning cup o' joe.
How Much Coffee Should I Drink?
The amount of coffee you need depends on your individual caffeine tolerance. Our bodies develop a tolerance for caffeine over time, so many people can add up to two cups of coffee to their daily diet and not feel any jitters or side effects at all. For others, however, even one cup can cause symptoms like sleeplessness and restlessness. In either case, it’s best to drink coffee in moderation—around 3 cups per day—and cut back if you notice negative side effects.
Decaffeinated Coffee or Regular Coffee For Diabetes
Which is better? Not surprisingly, given all of its other potential health benefits, drinking decaffeinated coffee may help lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. But there's also research indicating that caffeinated coffee may have beneficial effects as well. While more research is needed on regular and decaf coffee and type 2 diabetes, it's clear that moderate consumption can be part of a healthy diet. Plus, caffeinated or not, you'll get a serious jolt of energy in either case!
There are also many other health benefits of coffee, though it is important to note that these studies all use caffeinated coffee. So while we know caffeine can offer health benefits, decaf coffee might not be as effective. Some of those other potential benefits include increased longevity, reduced risk of depression and diabetes (especially for pregnant women), and a reduced risk of Parkinson’s disease. However, keep in mind that long-term studies haven’t yet been conducted on coffee (in general). More research is needed!
Other Health Benefits of Coffee
While many medical professionals and insurance companies warn of coffee’s possible health risks, other studies have proven that coffee drinkers live longer than their non-coffee drinking counterparts. A 2005 study published in Archives of Internal Medicine found that men who drank three or more cups of coffee per day were 50 percent less likely to die from heart disease than those who did not drink coffee. A 2010 study published in Diabetes Care discovered a 15 percent reduced risk for non-fatal heart attacks among both men and women who drank three or more cups of caffeinated coffee each day. The researchers estimated that one cup every four hours could reduce your risk for a heart attack by as much as 25 percent.
The Bottom Line
It’s not surprising that coffee has become a popular drink among diabetics. Studies have shown that it can lower blood sugar and help improve insulin sensitivity for people who already have diabetes. It also appears to help prevent future cases of diabetes in those at risk, such as obese adults and overweight teens. The findings are clear: if you like coffee, don’t stop drinking it if you want to avoid or manage diabetes; and even better, keep on drinking it daily—you may reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 15%.