All You Need To Know About Coffee And Gestational Diabetes

There are about 150 million coffee drinkers in the US, accounting for approximately 50% of the entire US population. Coffee is the favored beverage¹ in the US.

However, some people shouldn’t drink too much coffee. Research shows that coffee might affect gestational diabetes, but it’s still up for debate. This article sheds light on the relationship between coffee and gestational diabetes, with lots of information about coffee consumption. 

Have you considered clinical trials for Gestational diabetes?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Gestational diabetes, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

What is gestational diabetes? 

Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is a type of diabetes that develops for the first time during pregnancy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2% to 10% of US pregnancies are affected by gestational diabetes² every year.

Gestational diabetes has two classes: A1 and A2. If you have A1, you can manage your diabetes through exercise and diet. If you have A2, you’ll need to take medication.

Gestational diabetes only lasts during pregnancy. However, it can increase your possibility of developing type 2 diabetes and affect your baby.

Pregnant women may assume GDM symptoms are normal pregnancy-related symptoms. That's why it's vital to go through regular screening to identify this condition as early as possible.

Common gestational diabetes symptoms include:

  • Being thirstier than usual

  • Being hungrier and eating more than usual

  • Peeing more than usual 

What causes gestational diabetes?

If you have gestational diabetes, your blood sugar levels are too high. Normally, insulin moves glucose from your bloodstream into your body's cells for energy. GDM occurs when your pancreas doesn't produce enough insulin during your pregnancy.

When you’re pregnant, your hormone production changes. These hormonal changes cause the cells in your body to use insulin less effectively, increasing the need for insulin and leading to insulin resistance.

Many women can produce enough insulin to deal with the rising glucose levels, but some can't, causing gestational diabetes.

Gestational diabetes has several risk factors, such as:

  • Being overweight or obese

  • Being prediabetic

  • Having a family member with diabetes

  • Having gestational diabetes before 

When is it best to test for gestational diabetes? 

Pregnant women are most at risk of gestational diabetes at the 24th week of their pregnancy. This is usually the best time to test. However, your doctor may test you as early as your first antenatal appointment if you have risk factors. If your physician confirms a high insulin level in the early stages of your pregnancy, you may have diabetes.

Can I drink coffee with gestational diabetes? 

Yes, you can. However, you should note that this is an ongoing debate requiring more research. Recent studies have shown that caffeine can reduce the risk of gestational diabetes,³ but this needs further investigation.

How does coffee affect gestational diabetes?

Coffee triggers insulin resistance.⁴ Therefore, your cells don't absorb as much glucose as they’re supposed to. This effect is exacerbated by the insulin changes due to pregnancy.

The high level of caffeine makes it tougher to bring your glucose down to a healthy level, leading to an increased risk of gestational diabetes.

Scientists don’t have a clear understanding of how caffeine affects insulin levels, but they think these factors play a role:

  • Caffeine raises the level of certain stress hormones, such as epinephrine (adrenaline), preventing your cells from processing sugar. It might prevent your body from making a lot of insulin.

  • Caffeine blocks adenosine. This protein plays a major role in the amount of insulin your body can produce. It also controls how your cells respond to insulin.

  • Caffeine affects your sleep. Drinking too much coffee may keep you awake. 

Other effects of high caffeine levels

Here are a few side effects of too much caffeine: 

Anxiety

Caffeine increases alertness by blocking adenosine. This brain chemical triggers adrenaline release, which increases your energy.

High doses of caffeine make this effect more pronounced, causing nervousness or anxiety. 1,000mg per day can cause jitteriness and nervousness, common anxiety symptoms. High daily caffeine doses can also cause these symptoms in caffeine-sensitive people. 

Insomnia

Caffeine's ability to keep you awake is one of its most sought-after qualities. However, drinking too much coffee will stop you from sleeping well. 

Digestive issues 

Coffee is associated with gastrin release. The stomach produces gastrin to speed up digestive activity in the colon. Coffee stimulates bowel movements by increasing peristalsis, the contraction that moves food through the digestive tract.

Large doses of caffeine can lead to loose stools and even diarrhea for some people. 

Addiction

It's no secret that regular coffee consumption can become a habit. Caffeine triggers the brain as amphetamines or cocaine would, but it doesn't lead to addiction. However, it might lead to dependence, which can cause withdrawal symptoms, including headaches, lethargy, and low mood. 

High blood pressure 

Generally, caffeine reduces the possibility of heart disease or stroke. However, several studies⁵ have shown that it can raise blood pressure by stimulating the nervous system.

Fortunately, this effect is temporary, but it might significantly affect those not used to drinking coffee regularly. High caffeine levels can increase the blood pressure of perfectly healthy people while exercising and those with mild or moderate high blood pressure.

How much caffeine can I have? 

Safe caffeine levels differ according to your body mass, metabolism, and health. It also depends on whether you're a regular coffee drinker and how much coffee you have in one serving. Ideally, 400mg per day or less is an acceptable dosage of caffeine for most people.

Particular people should avoid caffeinated drinks, including:

  • People taking anti-anxiety medication

  • Anyone suffering from heart conditions, like arrhythmias

  • People with a sleep disorder that is not caffeine-induced

  • Children under 12 years old

  • Anyone with gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD)

How can you tell if you've reached your daily caffeine limit? Here is a breakdown of caffeine levels to determine how much caffeine you're consuming:

Warning

If you regularly consume high amounts of caffeine, you will likely develop tolerance as with any other drugs. Tolerance means that your body will become habituated to coffee’s effects. Therefore, you might become overly dependent on caffeine to function effectively.

If you're dependent on caffeine and try to stop consuming it, you might start to experience withdrawal symptoms, such as:

  • Anxiety

  • Fatigue

  • Crankiness

  • Muscle pain 

  • Sweating

  • Persistent headache

These symptoms might begin within 12-24 hours and last up to seven days. The best way to deal with coffee dependency is to cut your intake to moderate levels.

Benefits of coffee

Maintaining moderate caffeine levels has several benefits for the body. Here are a few unique  coffee benefits you should know about: 

Boosts your energy levels 

Here’s a benefit we all know about, but do you know how it works?

Coffee stimulates the central nervous system, helping you fight off fatigue and increasing your energy levels. Caffeine blocks the receptors of a neurotransmitter called adenosine, increasing⁶ other neurotransmitters' levels that regulate your energy levels, such as dopamine. 

Potentially lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes

Multiple studies have shown that consuming coffee can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Coffee can preserve the functioning of beta cells in the pancreas, boosting its ability to produce insulin and regulate blood sugar.

Additionally, coffee is rich in antioxidants, affecting your body’s metabolism and inflammation. This reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes. 

Can support brain health

Science has produced mixed studies on the effect of caffeine on brain function. Still, some research has shown that coffee can protect against neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases.

Capable of promoting weight management

Some research shows that coffee can alter fat storage and support gut health, which is helpful for weight management. A review of 12 studies revealed that consuming more coffee is associated with decreased body fat, especially in men.

Lowers the risk of depression

In some studies, coffee lowered the risk of depression. In a review of seven studies,⁷ consuming a cup of coffee has an 8% chance of reducing depression. Other studies prove coffee's abilities to lower depression, like lowering the risk of suicide.

Enhance athletic performance

Athletics drink coffee to increase their energy levels. In a systematic review,⁸ coffee improved people's endurance and decreased their perceived exertion compared with a controlled group.

The lowdown

Maintaining a light-to-moderate caffeine intake has impressive health benefits. In this sense, caffeine potentially reduces gestational diabetes risk. Other benefits include boosting energy levels, lowering the risk of depression, and promoting weight loss. Ideally, you shouldn’t exceed  200 mg if you're pregnant. Otherwise, you might develop a tolerance to coffee and encounter withdrawal symptoms. 

Have you considered clinical trials for Gestational diabetes?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Gestational diabetes, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

Joining community groups and exercise programs for my condition made me feel empowered – but I want to be part of finding a cure.
Peter, 64



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