Caffeine Risks May Rattle Diabetic People
Study Shows Caffeine Elevates Blood Glucose Levels in People With Diabetes
Jan 28, 2008 -- There's something about coffee that fights type 2 diabetes -- but it isn't caffeine.
Caffeine makes it hard for people with diabetes to control their blood
sugar, new studies suggest.
In the latest of these studies, Duke University researcher James D. Lane,
PhD, and colleagues put continuous blood-sugar monitors on 10 people with type
2 diabetes. All were regular coffee drinkers averaging four cups a day, but
they stopped drinking coffee during the experiment.
On one day, each patient took a 250 mg caffeine capsule at breakfast and another 250 mg
caffeine capsule at lunch. That's roughly the same as having them drink two
cups of coffee at each meal. On another day, the same people got placebo pills
with no caffeine in them.
The result: On the days the patients took caffeine, their blood-sugar levels
were 8% higher. And after every meal -- including dinner -- their blood sugar
spiked higher than it did on the day they had no caffeine.
"These are clinically significant blood-sugar elevations due to
caffeine," Lane tells WebMD. "Caffeine increases blood glucose by as
much as oral diabetes medications decrease it. ... It
seems the detrimental effects of caffeine are as bad as the beneficial effects
of oral diabetes drugs are good."
Lane warns against reading too much into this small, 10-patient study. But
he says it does show that caffeine has real effects on the everyday lives of
people with diabetes.
"For people with diabetes, drinking coffee or consuming caffeine in
other beverages may make it harder for them to control their glucose," he
(If you have diabetes, how much
caffeine do you consume on a regular basis? Talk with others on WebMD's
Type 2 Diabetes Support Group message board.)
Diabetes, Coffee, and Caffeine
Several studies have found that
coffee drinkers -- especially those who drink
a lot of coffee -- have a lower risk of diabetes than do other people. So
how can coffee both protect against diabetes and worsen diabetes?
WebMD took this question to Harvard researcher Rob van Dam, PhD, who
recently analyzed all of these studies.
"In 2002, we thought this did not make any sense," van Dam says.
"This is quite a consistent observation, that coffee has a positive effect
on diabetes. But it is becoming increasingly clear it is not the caffeine that
is beneficial. The picture is now evolving where we see that some other
components of coffee besides caffeine may be beneficial in long-term in
reduction of diabetes risk."
In fact, van Dam says, it appears that decaf coffee may actually help people
keep their blood sugar under control, whereas regular coffee has a detrimental
effect on blood sugar. Caffeine unbalanced by other coffee compounds, he says,
may be even worse.
Lane says that if there are anti-diabetes compounds in coffee, they don't
offset the harmful effects of caffeine.