Teens, children, young and old adults alike are consuming energy drinks with vigor. But are there any risks attached to this high consumption rate, and what of people with underlying health conditions like diabetes?
You may be wondering, can you drink energy drinks as a diabetic? The answer is yes, you can drink energy drinks in moderation if you have diabetes. With type 2 diabetes you have to be careful and pay attention to the amount of sugar and caffeine in energy drinks. Always consult your doctor to establish a safe intake limit.
This article will focus on diabetics and the risks that could come from taking energy drinks. Let’s get started.
Caffeine in energy drinks
Caffeine is a legal stimulant to which most people do not pay much attention. After all, it seems like almost everyone starts their day with a jolt of coffee. Plus, this stimulant is widely available. You find it in nearly everything from chocolates to sodas to teas.
And now, it is present in energy drinks, making it even more accessible. And in the case of these drinks, caffeine amounts are quite high. On average, a standard energy drink will provide you with about 80 mg of caffeine.
For people who do not have diabetes, taking caffeine should not be a problem, whether in energy drinks or coffee. All you get is an energy boost, feel more awake, and become more productive.
But for diabetics, that is not the case. Anyone with Type 2 diabetes should be careful consuming caffeine. Why is this? Well, it comes down to its effects on blood sugar levels.
As a person with diabetes, your doctor will insist that you keep your blood sugar in check. Fluctuations do not work in your favor.
Effects of caffeine with type 2 diabetes
Many studies point to different reactions to caffeine for people with type 2 diabetes. As is the case with all substances, people will not have the same response. But a known reaction is an increase in blood sugar and insulin levels.
In one study, scientists administered a 250 mg caffeine pill to people with type 2 diabetes. If you have looked at caffeine’s daily limits, you can see that this is quite high. But some energy drinks will give you something close to this.
When the subjects finally tested their blood sugar, they noticed a spike of 8% on average. The insulin level reading was higher after each meal they took. Thus, this was an indication that caffeine was to blame for the increase.
Why is this? We all have insulin, a hormone that allows sugar to enter your body cells before it gets converted to energy. Caffeine works in altering how your system responds to this hormone, thus affecting your sugar levels.
In some cases, it can lower the body’s sensitivity to this hormone. As such, cells would not respond to insulin as they should, resulting in a decrease in sugar absorption from the blood. When this happens, the body assumes that insulin production is not adequate. It thus produces more insulin, and that’s how the levels increase after each meal.
For healthy people, that should not be a problem. But with type 2 diabetics, there is already a problem in hand- their bodies do not use insulin well. For this reason, they suffer an increase in blood sugar levels when they have meals.
So, adding caffeine to the mix will only make the problem worse. They end up having a harder time returning the insulin levels to normal. And you know what happens after this- the blood sugar becomes too high.
While this may not seem like much of a problem, it can have long-term effects. Some of these include damaging the nerves or aggravating heart diseases. In some cases, you could even damage your eyesight owing to diabetic retinopathy.
While it may not look like a big problem when it happens once or twice, possible repercussions are quite adverse.
Energy drink caffeine limit for diabetics
So far, we have talked about how caffeine can affect your body’s normal functioning regarding insulin and blood sugar levels. You may wonder how much caffeine you can consider safe for consumption when you have diabetes.
Your limit falls at 200 mg on average. For some people, the threshold could be much lower than this, based on their body’s reaction to the stimulant. Others can take more, as long as the doctor gives the go-ahead on the same.
The doctor will consider things such as age and weight when deciding what works for your case. Also, your caffeine consumption plays a vital role in figuring out how much you can handle. If you already take a lot of caffeine as things stand, your blood sugar levels will not change much.
But people who are new to this stimulant will experience more changes. Your body learns to tolerate high amounts of caffeine over time.
200 mg is what you can expect of two cups of coffee. And when taking energy drinks, that is the equivalent of one or two cans. The best way to figure out how much you can handle is to consult your doctor.
That will require you to take several tests while consuming caffeine as you monitor your body’s responses. After that, you need to skip taking caffeine for a while. You can then tell how significant an impact this stimulant has on your body.
Caffeine may prevent type 2 diabetes
Some studies show that caffeine consumption can play a significant role in the prevention of type 2 diabetes. It owes to the high number of antioxidants in this stimulant. They work in reducing inflammation in your system, thus lowering your risk of the disease.
However, if you already suffer from this condition, using caffeine will only make it harder to control blood sugar levels. But the jury is out on this, as the tests are yet to be conclusive.
Sugar in energy drinks
Many people know that sugar in energy drinks is a harmful ingredient, more so when taken in large amounts. Not only can it contribute to unhealthy weight gain, but it also paves the way for dental erosion, among other harmful effects. And it can also contribute to the development of diabetes.
Your doctor will tell you to watch how much sugar you take, even giving you a daily limit. In some cases, the best thing would be to eliminate all sugar sources, especially if your blood sugar levels get out of hand.
But that can be hard. Now and then, you may want to sink your teeth in candy for a while and enjoy a sweet taste. And taking an energy drink may cross your mind. After all, these drinks come packed with loads of sugar that will give you a sugar rush like no other.
But before you try an energy drink, you should understand some things. For one, the cap on daily sugar intake varies from one person to the other. As a person with diabetes, your limit will be lower than that of an otherwise healthy person.
So what happens when you take an energy drink loaded with sugar? Well, if you have type 1 diabetes, that may not be a problem. Your condition has little correlation with sugar. But with type 2 diabetes that results from lifestyle conditions, that would not be a good idea.
Effects of sugar with diabetes
There are two types of diabetes– type 1 and type 2. The first type comes about when the immune system destroys the pancreas. Thus, the causative factor is not the sugar in your food or other lifestyle choices.
Type 2 comes about owing to lifestyle choices. While sugar may not be the main cause, it contributes to unhealthy weight gain. People who often consume sugary foods and drinks are at risk of developing this condition. That means that if you take energy drinks on the regular, then you have a cause to worry.
Now, should you stop eating sugar if you have diabetes? As mentioned earlier, you do not have to put an end to your sweet tooth. But you have to manage your sources of sugar.
Drinking energy drinks only aggravates the situation by altering your blood sugar levels. Instead of these drinks, you can rely on fruits, veggies, and dairy foods.
When taking fruit juices, be careful as they also contain high amounts of sugar. If you can keep the juices to less than 150 ml a day, you should be fine.
Can energy drinks cause diabetes?
We have looked at ways through which energy drinks can impact people with diabetes. Can they also cause diabetes? Well, a group of people drank caffeine-laden shots during a study. These otherwise healthy people experienced short-term insulin resistance following the shots.
Studies now point to the possibility of regular energy drink drinkers suffering type 2 diabetes later in their lives. The shots were devoid of sugar, and upon consumption, the subjects could not metabolize sugar efficiently. The same did not hold when they took shots without caffeine.
And that’s not all. The subjects also witnessed an increase in their blood sugar and insulin levels upon consuming the caffeine. It did not happen when they took the non-caffeine shots. This variation pointed to the effects of caffeine on the body.
Another interesting bit was that even when the insulin levels went up, the subjects’ blood sugar levels did not decrease. Naturally, when insulin goes up, sugar in the body reduces. That shows that caffeine creates some form of insulin resistance.
In most type 2 diabetes cases, this is the first stage. After this, the rest follows. Thus, if you take energy drinks regularly, you hamper the effect of insulin in the body in the long-term.
So yes, there is a risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the long-term if the studies are anything to go by.
Should you stop consuming energy drinks with sugar and caffeine altogether if you have diabetes? The answer lies with your doctor. While these ingredients are dangerous in large amounts, they can be beneficial in small doses.
Your doctor can guide you on what’s best for you after assessing your body’s response to energy drinks. They can then decide if you have a cause to worry. Without any medical intervention, you should stick to natural sugar sources and avoid these highly caffeinated and sugary drinks.