Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

January 07, 2002

Study to explore link between caffeine and diabetes, obesity

Canadians resolving to reduce their caffeine intake may reduce certain health risks as well, especially if obesity and lack of exercise play a role in diets that are high in caffeine, according to research by a University of Guelph professor.

Human biologist Terry Graham is part of a three-year, tri-university effort researching the link between caffeine use and type-2 diabetes, the most common form of diabetes in Canada. "The statistics in Canada and the Western world are startling," he said. "Cases are becoming increasingly common, and in younger age groups. We're finding caffeine can have an unhealthy effect on insulin levels for people already at risk."

Type-2 diabetes accounts for 90 per cent of the diabetes in Canada. Those with the disease can still produce insulin - the body's blood glucose regulator - but Graham said they can't produce enough to "get the job done," and they often have to take drugs to help manage blood sugar levels. He says the two biggest risk factors are inactivity and obesity. Canada and the Western World have seen a sharp increase in type-2 occurrences and at younger ages. Type-2 diabetes is now common among people in their 40s, and increasing obesity in children suggests it will continue to affect younger age groups.

Graham's concern is based on his previous studies involving caffeine's impact on exercise metabolism using two groups of university-aged men - one group called "lean" and the other "obese." The subjects were tested using an oral glucose tolerance test, conducted with and without prior caffeine ingestion. "Ideally, you want to produce the least amount of insulin to get your body's glucose level down to normal," Graham said. "We found that obese individuals have a resistance to insulin, which means they require higher levels of insulin to adjust their glucose levels. When given caffeine, their insulin levels go through the roof."

This research focused on short-term effects of caffeine. But the new project will study some long-term effects surrounding caffeine and type-2 diabetes. Among other long-term effects, the researchers will be looking for signs that the body adapts in habitual caffeine users. "Caffeine is often thought of as a benign drug, and in many ways, it is," said Graham. "But from what we've seen so far, this research could lead to important potential treatment for diabetics."


Professor Terry Graham
Department of Human Biology and Nutritional Sciences
(519) 824-4120, Ext. 6168

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