A Diabetic’s Cup of Tea (Or Coffee)

In order to understand the effects of tea and coffee on a person with diabetes, we need to know what Diabetes is. A common misconception that a diabetic person consumes too much sugar, is pure myth, as this is not the case.  

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease, where the body is unable to produce, or respond to insulin. Due to this, the ability to metabolize sugar, and carbohydrates, becomes problematic. The purpose of insulin is to lower blood sugar.  

When insulin is not being produced, it results in elevated blood sugar/glucose readings.  The most common is Type 1, and Type 2 Diabetes.

Type 1:  This is where the pancreas produces very little insulin, or none at all. This results in the person being insulin dependent.  

Type 2:  This is a disorder of the person’s metabolism. This results in high glucose levels due to insulin resistance, or lack of insulin, and the inability to metabolize glucose, and carbohydrates in the blood. Although this type can be treated through diet, some may eventually need medication as the condition progresses.

Decaf or regular?

Drinking tea and coffee, whether it’s regular, or decaffeinated, appear to lower the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes.  

However, someone who already has Type 2, and consumes caffeine prior to a meal, will experience increased elevated glucose levels, after their meal, and increase the resistance of insulin.  So, what can be healthy for one individual, can be detrimental to another.

The protective effect

The effects of tea and coffee, on insulin and glucose, may also change. Over time, as a person continues to drink tea and coffee, they can become more tolerant to caffeine, thereby having a resilience or a protective effect.  

There are other ingredients other than caffeine in tea and coffee, such as anti-oxidants, and magnesium, which could also be the reason for this protective effect.  Drinking tea and coffee regularly is not the best way to try to prevent, or manage diabetes.

What are you really getting from your coffee house?

Coffee drinkers will be happy to hear that their risk of developing type 2 diabetes is greatly reduced by the consumption of their favorite cup of java. However, a lot of coffee houses these days have taken tea and coffee to another level completely.  

They load their coffees with cream, sugar, syrups, high calories, unhealthy carbs, and fats, outweighing any positive protective effects that tea or coffee, in pure form, would have had.  

Coffees with syrup have become a very popular variety and can be a problem for people who are at risk of, or have diabetes. Diabetics, or those at risk, should reduce their exposure to sugar. The same can be mentioned for lattes. They are very milky, and therefore contain carbohydrates.

Milk, whether full fat or low fat, contains carbohydrates, which should be reduced in the case of a person with diabetes since they have trouble metabolizing carbs too.

If you must indulge in these decadent ranges of coffee, the best thing to do is limit the quantity. Do you really need the Venti?  Why not opt for the short? Coffee in its purer form has polyphenols, which contain antioxidant properties and help to prevent inflammatory diseases such as type 2 diabetes.

So, what if we remove the cream, or milk, and use a sugar substitute? Surely this is a healthier alternative? Not so! Once a sweetening agent is added, the benefits of preventing Type 2 diabetes disappear, and actually increases the risk of it developing.

A British Medical Journal discovered that countries where black tea is most consumed, revealed the lowest levels of Type 2 diabetes. Ireland was the country that consumed the blackest tea, followed closely by Britain, and Turkey. Type 2 diabetes is not prevalent in these countries.

Who has the most caffeine?

It is interesting to note, that coffee contains more caffeine than black tea, and black tea contains more caffeine than green tea.  

Green tea has a huge range of health benefits, including being good for people with diabetes. Green tea helps to sensitize the cells in the body, making them better able to metabolize sugar, and generally helps the metabolism to function more efficiently. Some studies have shown that consuming at least 6 cups of tea a week, can reduce the chances of diabetes.

To drink, or not to drink

It’s a good idea to drink tea for diabetes. Tea contains antioxidants found in plants called, polyphenols. It’s the polyphenols in vegetables and fruits that are responsible for their bright colors. These polyphenols help to regulate glucose in the blood, thereby assisting in the prevention or control of diabetes.  

So, what’s your color? Green or black? Black Tea has higher levels of caffeine, which if consumed in excess is not good.  The more orange the black tea appears, the higher the content of polyphenols. Green tea has a higher level of polyphenols than any other tea.  Having more color means that green tea is richer in polyphenols. Green certainly wins this one!

In a nutshell

It would appear that Coffee and Tea can be useful tools for warding off type 2 diabetes.  However, a person who already has this would be better off limiting their coffee intake, as the reverse would be true. Pour out the green tea instead. A good saying to stick with:  “Everything in moderation.” Now, where did I put my coffee?…

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