Can Caffeine Decrease Insulin Sensitivity?

Caffeine has a number of health benefits associated with it. It increases circulation, improves your reflexes, and helps you concentrate. But does it also increase your risk of diabetes? A number of recent studies seem to suggest so, as they found that subjects given regular doses of caffeine increased their insulin sensitivity. That’s worrisome at first glance, because your risk of diabetes is directly correlated to your body’s degree of insulin resistance.

Insulin Resistance

Your insulin resistance is a measure of how easily your body processes the glucose in your blood, also known as your “blood sugar.” Glucose is what your muscles and cells use for energy. Insulin is what your body uses to get that glucose into the cells.  People with a low insulin resistance have a high insulin sensitivity. Their bodies don’t need a lot of insulin in order to move glucose into their cells. Those who have low insulin sensitivity have a high degree of insulin resistance, need more more insulin in order to process glucose and are at more risk for type II diabetes.

A Paradox

While some scientific studies have found that caffeine increases your insulin sensitivity, others have found that drinking coffee and tea actually lowers your insulin sensitivity. Since both coffee and tea contain lots of caffeine, it looks like these studies contradict each other. But, in fact, they don’t.

The difference lies in how the studies are conducted. Typically, in a caffeine study, the subjects are given their caffeine in pill form. Essentially, they are ingesting pure caffeine. On the other hand, the subjects in a coffee or tea study get their caffeine in diluted form, via their coffee or tea. Both coffee and tea contain a number of ingredients other than caffeine, including a large dose of antioxidants, potassium and magnesium.

In short, whatever effect caffeine has on insulin sensitivity, it seems to be more than overcome by the benefits of the other ingredients in tea and coffee. Avoid caffeine pills, which you probably already know to do, and enjoy your coffee without worry.


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  • Ellie Fridell

    “. . . caffeine increases your insulin sensitivity, others have found that drinking coffee and tea actually lowers your insulin sensitivity.”

    I have read the literature abstracts and believe you have this statement backwards. Caffeine in pure form decreases insulin sensitivity (bad), but coffee and tea may raise insulin sensitivity (good). Or perhaps the word sensitivity could be replaced with resistance and that would correct the statement.