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Researchers in Switzerland have made a surprising discovery: caffeine may one day be used to treat diabetes. In a study published in the journal Nature Communications, the researchers explained the way they used an implant of manufactured kidney cells to encourage insulin production in diabetic mice.

How it works

Here’s the simple breakdown: human kidney cells are implanted below the skin, become gel-like, and stick together like caviar. When triggered, the cells release a diabetes drug called GLP-1. Caffeine is then administered or ingested to trigger the cells to release GLP-1, which then encourage the pancreas to produce insulin. Finally, insulin is released into the bloodstream and stabilizes blood sugar levels.

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The study

Researchers implanted manufactured human kidney cells in 10 diabetic mice to and found that exposure to caffeine helped stabilize blood sugar levels. The study used caffeinated drinks like herbal tea, milkshakes, energy drinks, instant coffee, black tea, and more. Drinks containing higher amounts of caffeine encouraged the cells to release a stronger dose of GLP-1.

Can humans use this technology?

This technology could greatly improve the lives of people who live with type 2 diabetes. Instead of injecting insulin, it would be very easy for someone with diabetes to drink a cup of coffee or tea after each meal, integrating it into their existing lifestyle. However, scientists predict it will be at least another decade before it the caffeine technology is approved for use in humans.

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Diabetes: the numbers

This study is particularly promising as diabetes numbers continue to climb. Currently, diabetes affects more than 400 million people worldwide and about 30 million in the United States alone. At least 84 million people in the United States have prediabetes, but only 10 percent of them know they have it. These rates don’t seem to be slowing down, and the lifestyle disease is considered to be a pandemic health crisis.

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Kayla Pearce
Kayla Pearce is a Content Developer at Diabetic Nation in Memphis, TN. She has backgrounds in professional and creative writing and over a decade of experience in research and editing. She is deeply interested in literature, poetry, cats, and dessert.