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Coffee and Prediabetes

October 15, 2020
Coffee and Prediabetes - Lark Health

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A diagnosis of prediabetes can be life-altering. At best, it can be motivation for eating more healthfully, getting physically active, and making other changes to reduce the risk for diabetes. As you work to lower blood sugar, can you still rely on what may be an old friend: coffee?

You are in good company if you depend on your cuppa Joe to jumpstart your day. According to Mayo Clinic, the average American has 2 cups of coffee a day. It is a good strategy for waking up and feeling energized and focused. If you have prediabetes, it appears that the news regarding coffee is good: it can still be part of the routine!

Coffee and Risk for Diabetes

Researchers studying how coffee consumption might be related to risk for developing type 2 diabetes have found positive results. A study published in Annals of Internal Medicine found that compared to those who avoided coffee, women and men who drank at least 6 cups of coffee a day had 29% and 54%, respectively, lower risk of developing diabetes over 12 to 18 years. Study authors noted a smaller reduction in risk with lower coffee consumption.

A study published in Diabetes Care found a similar risk reduction with greater amounts of coffee consumption. This study also compared the possible effects of caffeinated versus decaffeinated coffee, and found that regardless of which type of coffee participants consumed, risk for diabetes decreased with a higher intake of coffee.

Best Amount of Coffee for Preventing Diabetes

If coffee is good for preventing diabetes, is more coffee better? It appears that way, to a point, but there are caveats. The studies in both Annals of Internal Medicine and Diabetes Care found the greatest risk reduction among people who had at least 6 cups daily. Harvard School of Public Health estimates that the benefits of having 3 to 5 cups a day may also include a lower risk of multiple chronic conditions.

However, caffeine can have adverse effects, too. Although it can increase focus and wakefulness, too much caffeine can lead to:

  • Anxiety
  • Jitters
  • Insomnia or trouble sleeping
  • Increased heart rate

Mayo Clinic suggests limiting intake to 4 cups of coffee per day. It is also important to avoid caffeine within 6 hours of bedtime to allow time for its effects to wear off before trying to sleep.

Caffeine and Blood Sugar

Though caffeine and coffee do appear to be beneficial for diabetes risk over time, it is important to know that caffeine does boost blood sugar when you drink it. Since it does raise blood sugar in the short-term among individuals with diabetes, it is best to talk to your doctor about your current and planned caffeine consumption to make sure that the caffeine you are drinking is safe and healthy for you.

Keeping Coffee Healthy

Black coffee is not only apparently good for blood sugar, but it is good for weight. It has only 5 calories per cup, making it a good alternative to water for getting enough fluids. (Despite its caffeine content and tendency to increase urination, nutritionists agree that coffee's net effect is to hydrate, not dehydrate).

However, coffee can quickly become high in sugar and calories with additions such as creamer, whipped cream, flavoring syrup, and sugar. Mochas, iced coffees, frappes, and other blended or flavored coffee-based drinks can have 100 to 200 or more calories and 20 to 40 or more grams of sugar, or more than the amount in a chocolate frosted donut.

Best Coffee Orders If You Have Prediabetes

Making your own coffee or ordering it black can ensure that you get the benefits of coffee without extra calories and sugar. Additions such as unsweetened almond milk, cinnamon or cocoa powder, and natural low-calorie sweeteners, such as stevia, can add creaminess and sweetness without many calories.

At major coffee shops, these are some ideas for coffee orders that will not break the blood sugar bank.

  • Starbucks: cold brew with dark cocoa almond milk foam
  • Dunkin' Donuts: hot coffee with unsweetened almond milk or skim milk
  • The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf: iced Americano with no sugar added chocolate powder
  • Gloria Jean's Coffees: cafe au lait with dark cocoa powder
  • McCafe: Small latte with nonfat milk
  • Tim Horton's: iced coffee with milk
  • Caribou Coffee: iced Northern lite latte

Having prediabetes may mean making a few diet changes, but it does not mean you need to give up coffee! When drunk responsibly, coffee may actually help lower risk for prediabetes!

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