Coffee and diabetes

WHAT we eat and drink affects our health. The relevance of the association is even more significant among those who have pre-diabetes and those who actually have diabetes.

Soft drinks, diet or decaf, cola or uncola, or regular, are all harmful, toxic to the body of adults and children. Soft drinks increase the risk for metabolic syndrome.

Processed fruit juices are likewise unhealthy. Eating the fresh fruits (or drinking fruit juice you extracted yourself without any additives) is the healthier option.

How about coffee, a popular day-starter and afternoon break beverage, one of the most popular drinks in the world?

Recent clinical studies have concluded that drinking coffee may actually reduce the risk for the development of diabetes. But how about coffee for those who already have pre-diabetes or diabetes? Does it affect the glucose (blood sugar) and A1c levels?

A cup of 8 ounce coffee contains 140 milligrams of caffeine. Taking two cups a day, or even consuming up to 400 milligrams of caffeine, appears to be safe for most healthy adults. They did not jack up the blood sugar level significantly when a teaspoon or two of sugar is used. Adding more sugar, creamer, flavoring (which are carbohydrates) to coffee will obviously increase the glucose level to a higher degree among diabetics, unless included in the prescribed daily calorie count.

Coffee consumption

Worldwide, about 1.4 billion cups of coffee is consumed each day, 45 percent of it (400 million cups) in the United States, according to the International Coffee Organization. But the per capita consumption globally shows that the United States is number 22, drinking 4 kilograms of coffee per person a year, with Scandinavian countries topping it (Finland, 11 kilogram of coffee per person per year; Norway, just below 11, and Sweden and Denmark, about 10).

Diabetes Type 2

In 2012, there were 29.1 million Americans (9.3 percent of the US population) who had diabetes, of which about 8.1 million were undiagnosed.

Worldwide, there are more than 422 million (of the 7.4 billion people on earth today) who have diabetes.

The prevalence of diabetes among seniors, age 65 and older, is 25.9 percent, or about 11.8 million. Every year, about 1.4 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes. In 2012, there were 86 million Americans 20 and older found to have pre-diabetes, 8 million more than in 2010. Diabetes remains the 7th leading cause of death in the United States.

By race/ethnic background, the prevalence rate is as follows:

Non-hispanic whites, 7.6 percent; Asian-Americans, 9.0; Hispanics, 12.8; non-Hispanic blacks, 13.2; American Indians/Alaskan natives, 15.9 percent. The breakdown among Asian-Americans: Chinese, 4.4 percent; Filipinos, 11.3; Asian Indians, 13; other Asian-Americans, 8.8 percent.

Coffee and caffeine

Caffeine is the natural chemical ingredient in coffee. It is a central nervous system stimulant that is found in more than 60 plants, like coffee beans and tea leaves. Caffeine affects how a person feels and behaves. It wakes the brain up in the morning, improves focus and concentration, and helps relieve the sense of fatigue. Laboratory-formulated caffeine is used as an additive to food, energy drinks, and prescription medications. While caffeine is the most well-known ingredient in coffee, there are others which are beneficial to health. Polyphenols are one of them, antioxidant that prevents inflammatory illnesses such as type 2 diabetes. The other two are minerals: magnesium, which is associated also with lowering the risk for Type 2 diabetes, and chromium.

Research findings

A clinical review and analysis of 28 studies (involving 1,109,270 persons, 45,335 were diabetics, all followed-up for 20 years) led by Harvard School of Public Health shows that “those who increase the amount of coffee they drank by more than one cup per day over a 4-year period has an 11 percent lower risk for Type 2 Diabetes compared to those who made no changes to their coffee intake.” The findings were true for both regular and decaffeinated coffee. Conversely, those who decreased their coffee use by more than one cup a day had a 17 percent higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

Exercise and coffee

Other studies investigated the effect of exercise on caffeine consumption among those with Type 2 diabetes. The findings revealed that “those who had 40 minutes of physical exercise had significant reduction in their blood sugar levels compared to other groups…. Their findings suggest that caffeine coupled with prolonged exercise could reduce blood sugar levels.” Indirectly, this suggests that among non-diabetics, exercise and coffee provide health benefits.

Drinking limit

The Mayo Clinic recommends no more than 3 to 5 cups of coffee a day for those who enjoy coffee, and that drinking more than that can cause serious effects in some people, like fast heart beat, heart irregularity, nervousness, restlessness, irritability, stomach distress, muscle tremors, and insomnia. While some people can tolerate more than 5 cups a day, it is advisable to heed this limit above. Coffee, just like other chemicals in medications, can affect people differently, even on their blood sugar level. As always, if in doubt, we suggest discussing your health concerns with your physician.


Water is still the best drink for all of us, especially for those with Type 2 diabetes. Drinking coffee, regular or decaffeinated, appears to confer good health benefits to both non-diabetics and diabetics alike. For non-diabetics, the glucose and A1c levels are not dramatically increased with 3-5 cups of coffee a day with cream and sugar. For those with diabetes and religious with their medications, drinking the same amount a day, especially without cream and sugar, will have a small instant spike of glucose level, which will taper off, and not adversely affect the A1c level either, as long as this beverage is included in the prescribed daily caloric intake of the individual. The other benefits of coffee drinking under continuing clinical study include improvement among individuals with attention-deficit disorder, minimizing risk for depression, and lowering the risk for cardiovascular diseases, liver diseases, Parkinson, Alzheimer’s and even cancer.

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TAGS: A1c, coffee, cola, Denmark, diabetes, diet, Finland, health, Norway, Sweden, water
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