Sugar gets High with Caffeine and Fat

I’m going to ditch my coffee habit altogether and switch to white tea exclusively. There is some new research out about blood sugar, caffeine and high fat food – and I since I want to keep my blood sugar normal I’ve decided to take the hint.

High fat food has been the subject of nutritional debate for many years now. We all know that high fat foods can contribute to poor health in a myriad of ways – obesity, gall bladder problems, high cholesterol, inflammation in the body, cancers – to name a few things off the top of my head!  Just out in the world of research this week is the news that caffeine when consumed with a high fat meal causes blood sugar to stay elevated – quite a bit elevated – even hours after the meal is completed.   High blood sugar is not something to be taken lightly.  Even if you don’t have diabetes, you don’t want your blood sugar to remain high because it still has deleterious effects for the major and minor organs of the body.

Diabetes is on the rise big time and much of the increase is because of lifestyle changes that cause a conundrum of different health problems. The problem gets amplified because one problem on its own will have its own health impacts; but add in another couple of health problems and you get a compounded effect.  Synergy results because the body is not a bunch of individual parts but a whole system.

Diabetes occurs more frequently in obese and overweight people – and it’s no surprise that it is increasing in the USA, Australia and other countries who feast on the typical western diet. Our particular style of diet is typically fast, salty, sugary and devoid of many nutrients.  Now not ALL of us eat this way, but plenty of us do.  I could get on a tangent here about the lack of quality food we serve our school kids, our elderly, and our infirm.  No wonder we are a nation on pharmaceuticals – even our most vulnerable citizens are served up piles of nutrient poor, salty, sugary, fatty, starch foods – and not many of us even care- especially those who budget for it – because it’s easy and its cheap.    And truth be told many of us like our food this way because we were raised on it, and because it is easy, cheap and we have become accustomed to it.

Now in regard to diabetes it has been known for a while that caffeine can have the effect of increasing blood sugar and that saturated fat causes blood sugar to stay elevated for longer too. Caffeine increases insulin resistance and impairs the ability of the body to take up glucose efficiently after a meal. Saturated fat has the effect of causing blood sugar to stay higher for longer.

When you combine both caffeine and saturated fat blood sugar is increased up to 65%. That’s an enormous amount.   And what’s more, this research was done on healthy men without diabetes.   Since those with diabetes have compromised pancreas function and/or insulin resistance it’s a fair guess that the effects would be worse for those individuals.  In the study the men drank a high fat drink of 1 gram of fat for every kilogram they weighed, and then five hours later were given a sugar drink.  Their blood sugar was increased 32% in comparison to having the high sugar drink but not the high fat drink.   Then they tested the effect of caffeine and a high fat meal.  The men drank the yummy high fat beverage and then about 2 cups of coffee over 5 hours.  Then the men were given the yummy sugar drink but this time their blood sugar was 65% higher.   The reason for this is because the combo of fat and sugar blunts the response of incretin hormones that interact between the gut and the pancreas which affects the signal to release insulin.  If insulin isn’t released in sufficient amounts, blood sugar stays high.

I guess this isn’t really good news –It seems like every time we turn around there is some new bad guy on the nutrition front. But it is good to know the facts. Now I don’t think coffee is bad, or even saturated fat in moderation – but the combo well – it’s lethal over time if you have diabetes.   And if you don’t have it you may be well on the way if you eat your fair share of high fat foods combined with caffeine. May be this is one of the reasons that soda is correlated with metabolic syndrome and increased risk for diabetes.   What goes better with coke than a greasy burger and fries, or pizza?

The complications of chronically high blood sugar are horrible.  If your sugar is high enough over a period of years your body is going to begin to show the signs.  Heart attacks, kidney failure, loss of eyesight, loss of digestive ability, loss of circulation leading to amputations of toes and legs are the worst ones.  These are not pretty and sadly they are very real complications of high blood sugar.

But the good news in that none of this has to happen if you keep your blood sugar under control. With everything there is to gain, it seems a small price to pay to give up the high fat food and caffeine combo.

Ways to keep your blood sugar in check – apart from avoiding the high fat and caffeine combo are to keep a healthy weight, get regular daily exercise, eat a diet rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants.   Eat a good amount of fruits and vegetables, beans and legumes and avoid too much junk food and easy food.   Good food takes a bit of preparation, but it’s much lower in salt sugar and additives and much higher in all the things that keep you healthy.

There is also some evidence that cinnamon reduces blood sugar levels after a meal, and so does vinegar or a modest amount of red wine.

I know for sure that this research has given me pause about my caffeine habit.  Coffee contains about 100mg of caffeine per cup on average.  The study only used 2 cups!  Being new to tea (and only because of the health benefits) I am gradually increasing the amount of tea I drink and think I may have to replace my coffee altogether.  White tea has the greatest health benefits of all the teas, even more than green tea and it only has about 15mg per cup.  So far I’m doing 4 cups of white tea per day and 2 cups of coffee in the morning.    Looks like tomorrow I’ll be doing a bit more tea and a bit less coffee.  It was my goal to reach 6 cups of white tea per day anyway!



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