How to drink coffee to protect your blood sugar levels

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In a new study, researchers found that a strong, black coffee to wake you up after a bad night’s sleep could impair control of blood sugar levels.

They found that whilst one night of poor sleep has a limited impact on our metabolism, drinking coffee as a way to perk you up from a slumber can have a negative effect on blood glucose (sugar) control.

Given the importance of keeping our blood sugar levels within a safe range to reduce the risk of conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, they say these results could have ‘far-reaching’ health implications especially considering the global popularity of coffee.

The research was conducted by a team at the University of Bath (UK).

In the study, the team looked at the effect of broken sleep and morning coffee across a range of different metabolic markers.

They asked 29 healthy men and women to undergo three different overnight experiments in random order:

In one, condition participants had a normal night’s sleep and were asked to consume a sugary drink on waking in the morning.

On another occasion, participants experienced a disrupted night’s sleep (where the researchers woke them every hour for five minutes) and then upon waking were given the same sugary drink.

On another, participants experienced the same sleep disruption (i.e. being woken throughout the night) but this time were first given a strong black coffee 30 minutes before consuming the sugary drink.

In each of these tests, blood samples from participants were taken following the glucose drink which in energy content (calories) mirrored what might typically be consumed for breakfast.

Their findings highlight that one night of disrupted sleep did not worsen participants’ blood glucose/insulin responses at breakfast when compared to a normal night’s sleep.

Past research suggests that losing many hours of sleep over one and/or multiple nights can have negative metabolic effects, so it is reassuring to learn that a single night of fragmented sleep (e.g. due to insomnia, noise disturbance or a new baby) does not have the same effect.

However, strong black coffee consumed before breakfast substantially increased the blood glucose response to breakfast by around 50%.

Although population-level surveys indicate that coffee may be linked to good health, past research has shown that caffeine has the potential to cause insulin resistance.

This new study, therefore, reveals that the common remedy of drinking coffee after a bad night’s sleep may solve the problem of feeling sleepy but could create another by limiting your body’s ability to tolerate the sugar in your breakfast.

One author of the study is Professor James Betts, Co-Director of the Centre for Nutrition, Exercise and Metabolism.

The study is published in the British Journal of Nutrition.

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