Can People with Diabetes Drink Coffee? Effects on Blood Sugar

By Craig Sorkin, DNP, APN
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
October 7, 2022

Coffee is an area that feels confusing at times for people who have type 2 diabetes. Some research shows that coffee could have health benefits, while other research suggests it could affect blood sugar. In this article, we’ll discuss how coffee affects blood sugar, its benefits, and risks, as well as the best way to enjoy coffee if you have type 2 diabetes.

Does Coffee Affect Blood Sugar?

Coffee can impact blood sugar, but it has also been shown to have protective effects on insulin. Ultimately, whether coffee impacts blood sugar seems to depend on how much a person consumes, whether they add sugar to it, and other factors in their diet.

Research shows that coffee has the possibility to make insulin resistance worse in the short-term, but that long-term consumption can actually be associated with a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes. However, the study does not prove that coffee prevents type 2 diabetes. It only shows a link between people who regularly drink coffee and are less likely to get diabetes. Even though research seems to show a cause and effect, the study’s design does not actually let medical providers make that conclusion.

Around 75% of adults in the U.S. drink coffee. How people individually respond to it can depend on genetics, age, diet, health factors, and more. Coffee can affect blood sugar, but not necessarily negatively for everyone.

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Potential Benefits of Coffee for People With Diabetes

Coffee is rich in antioxidants. Every day, biological processes in the body produce free radicals, which can lead to oxidative damage in cells. People who have type 2 diabetes may have higher loads of free radicals and oxidative stress.

Antioxidants counteract the damaging effects of free radicals. The more antioxidants people get in their diets, the more protected their cells can be from this type of damage. Coffee isn’t the only source of antioxidants. They’re found in fruits and vegetables, which should be the primary source for anyone with type 2 diabetes.

Other health benefits

Coffee contains polyphenols that may have anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory benefits. These polyphenols are also thought to give coffee protective effects against diabetes and blood pressure problems. However, coffee is not a cure for people who already have diabetes or hypertension; it could still worsen these conditions.

Risks Associated with Drinking Coffee With Diabetes

People who are sensitive to caffeine could experience more blood pressure and blood sugar impacts from coffee. Some research has also found that caffeine intake can worsen insulin sensitivity in people with type 2 diabetes. This can make it harder for the body to regulate blood glucose.

If people add sugar, milk, or other ingredients to their coffee, this can increase the impact on blood sugar, making it harder to control.

How Much Coffee You Should Drink if You Have Diabetes

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) suggests that up to 400 milligrams of caffeine per day are unlikely to cause negative effects in the general population. If you have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, a healthcare provider can help you understand whether this is a safe amount for you, or if you should consume less.

It also depends on how you take your coffee:

  • Home-brewed coffee usually contains less caffeine than coffee chains or cafes.
  • Coffee that contains added sugars, milk, creamers, and other ingredients is worse for blood sugar control than plain, black coffee. Even sugar alternatives may still make it harder to control blood sugar levels.
  • If you drink a small amount of coffee throughout the day, it may have a reduced impact on blood sugar compared to a double-shot espresso in one sitting.

If you love coffee and have type 2 diabetes, you can track your blood glucose levels at home to see how it affects you. If you do not notice problems with your blood sugar management, your healthcare provider may agree that it is fine to continue. If you notice that your postprandial blood sugar numbers are higher, you may need to adjust how you make your coffee, drink less, or eat more fiber with your coffee to support how the body uses and stores glucose.

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What’s the Best Way to Make Coffee With Diabetes?

The healthiest way to enjoy coffee is plain, black brewed coffee. Adding sugar, other sweeteners, milk, or dairy alternatives increases the carbs and sugar load of the coffee beverage. This can lead to negative effects on blood sugar, and can also contribute to weight gain or problems losing weight.

Overall, everything should be in moderation. No one should be overconsuming caffeine-containing products and taking in too much sugary or non-sugar sweeteners. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is it safe to drink coffee with diabetes?
People who have type 2 diabetes can drink coffee in moderation, although some people are more sensitive than others. Adding milk, sugar, or other sweeteners to coffee can worsen its effect on glucose.
Can people with Type 2 diabetes drink coffee?
Plain black coffee consumed in moderation (about 400 mg of caffeine per day) is likely fine for people with type 2 diabetes. However, individual sensitivity can depend, so if you are unsure how coffee impacts you, test your glucose levels or work with your healthcare provider to determine if coffee is good for you.
What is coffee's effect on diabetes?
Research looking at the effects of coffee on diabetes are mixed. Some show that it does not impact glucose, while other studies indicate that it may worsen insulin resistance. Individuals may respond differently to coffee and caffeine.
Should people with diabetes drink coffee without sugar?
Adding sugar to any drink, including coffee, makes it harder to control blood sugar levels. People who have type 2 diabetes should limit added sugars to support better blood glucose maintenance.
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

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Craig Sorkin, DNP, APN

Craig Sorkin, DNP, APN is a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner with over 15 years experience. He received his Undergraduate and Graduate degrees from William Paterson University and his doctoral degree from Drexel University. He has spent his career working in the Emergency Room and Primary Care. The last 6 years of his career have been dedicated to the field of digital medicine. He has created departments geared towards this specialized practice as well as written blogs and a book about the topic.