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  • Writer's pictureDr. Karuturi Subrahmanyam

Can People with Diabetes Drink Sugar Cane Juice?

Sugar cane juice is a sweet drink made from the extracted sap of the sugar cane plant. It is widely consumed in many tropical and subtropical regions of the world, especially in India, Africa, and Asia. Sugar cane juice is often considered a natural and healthy beverage, as it contains antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes. But is it safe for people with diabetes to drink sugar cane juice? How does it affect their blood sugar levels and overall health? This article will answer these questions and provide some tips on how to enjoy sugar cane juice in moderation.

What is sugar cane juice?

Sugar cane juice is the liquid that is obtained by crushing or pressing the peeled sugar cane stalks. It has a light yellow to brown color and a sweet and refreshing taste. It is usually served cold, with ice and lemon or other fruits. Sugar cane juice is not the same as cane sugar, which is the refined product that is used as a sweetener. Cane sugar is made by evaporating and crystallizing the juice, which removes most of the nutrients and leaves behind pure sucrose.

Sugar cane juice is not a pure sugar drink, either. It contains about 70-75% water, 10-15% fiber, and 13-15% sugar, mostly in the form of sucrose, glucose, and fructose. It also contains small amounts of protein, fat, and ash. Sugar cane juice is a good source of antioxidants, such as phenolic compounds and flavonoids, which have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects. It also provides some vitamins, such as vitamin C, A, and B-complex, and minerals, such as calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus.

How does sugar cane juice affect blood sugar levels?

One of the main concerns for people with diabetes is how different foods and drinks affect their blood sugar levels. Blood sugar, or glucose, is the main source of energy for the body’s cells. However, too much or too little glucose in the blood can cause serious health problems. People with diabetes have impaired insulin production or action, which means that their body cannot regulate the amount of glucose in the blood properly. Therefore, they need to monitor their blood sugar levels regularly and adjust their diet, medication, and physical activity accordingly.

Sugar cane juice, like any other carbohydrate-containing food or drink, can raise blood sugar levels. However, the extent and duration of this effect depend on several factors, such as the amount and type of sugar, the presence of fiber and other nutrients, the glycemic index (GI) and glycemic load (GL) of the food or drink, and the individual’s metabolic response.

The glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how quickly a food or drink raises blood sugar levels compared to a reference food, such as pure glucose or white bread. Foods and drinks with a high GI (above 70) cause a rapid and large increase in blood sugar levels, while those with a low GI (below 55) cause a slower and smaller increase. The glycemic load (GL) is a measure of the total amount of glucose that a food or drink provides, taking into account the portion size and the GI. Foods and drinks with a high GL (above 20) have a greater impact on blood sugar levels than those with a low GL (below 10).

According to some studies, sugar cane juice has a low to moderate GI, ranging from 43 to 61, depending on the variety and processing method of the sugar cane. This means that it does not cause a very fast or large spike in blood sugar levels. However, sugar cane juice has a high GL, ranging from 19 to 30, depending on the amount and concentration of the juice. This means that it provides a large amount of glucose to the blood, which can be problematic for people with diabetes.

What are the benefits and risks of sugar cane juice for people with diabetes?

Sugar cane juice, like any other food or drink, has both benefits and risks for people with diabetes. Some of the potential benefits are:

  • It provides hydration and electrolytes, which can prevent dehydration and fatigue, especially in hot and humid climates.

  • It contains antioxidants, which can protect the cells from oxidative stress and inflammation, which are linked to diabetes complications, such as cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, and nerve damage.

  • It contains some vitamins and minerals, which can support the immune system and prevent deficiencies, which are common in people with diabetes.

  • It contains fiber, which can slow down the absorption of sugar and lower the GI and GL of the juice. Fiber can also improve digestion and bowel movements and prevent constipation, which are common issues for people with diabetes.

Some of the potential risks are:

  • It contains a large amount of sugar, which can raise blood sugar levels and increase the risk of hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar. Hyperglycemia can cause symptoms such as thirst, hunger, frequent urination, blurred vision, headache, fatigue, and nausea. It can also lead to serious complications, such as diabetic ketoacidosis, hyperosmolar hyperglycemic state, and coma.

  • It can interfere with the action of diabetes medications, such as insulin and oral hypoglycemic agents, which are used to lower blood sugar levels. This can result in either hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, or hyperglycemia, depending on the dose and timing of the medication and the juice. Hypoglycemia can cause symptoms such as sweating, shaking, dizziness, confusion, hunger, weakness, and anxiety. It can also lead to serious complications, such as seizures, loss of consciousness, and brain damage.

  • It can increase the risk of dental caries, or tooth decay, due to the high sugar content and acidity of the juice. Dental caries can cause pain, infection, and tooth loss. People with diabetes are more prone to dental problems, as high blood sugar levels can impair the immune system and reduce saliva production, which are important for oral health.

  • It can increase the risk of obesity and metabolic syndrome, due to the high calorie and sugar content of the juice. Obesity and metabolic syndrome are associated with insulin resistance, which is a condition where the body does not respond well to insulin and has difficulty regulating blood sugar levels. Insulin resistance can worsen diabetes and increase the risk of other chronic diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, and cancer.

How to enjoy sugar cane juice in moderation?

Sugar cane juice is not a forbidden drink for people with diabetes, but it should be consumed with caution and moderation. Here are some tips on how to enjoy sugar cane juice safely and responsibly:

  • Check your blood sugar levels before and after drinking sugar cane juice, and adjust your diet, medication, and physical activity accordingly. If you are not sure how sugar cane juice affects your blood sugar levels, consult your doctor or diabetes educator.

  • Drink sugar cane juice in small amounts and occasionally, not regularly or excessively. A reasonable portion size is about 1/2 cup (120 mL) of juice, which provides about 25 grams of sugar and 100 calories. Do not drink more than one portion per day, and limit your total sugar intake from all sources to less than 10% of your daily calories, as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).

  • Drink sugar cane juice as part of a balanced meal or snack, not on an empty stomach or between meals. This can help prevent a sudden spike or drop in blood sugar levels and provide other nutrients that can balance the sugar and fiber content of the juice. For example, you can drink sugar cane juice with some nuts, seeds, cheese, or yogurt, which provide protein and healthy fats that can slow down the digestion and absorption of sugar.

  • Drink sugar cane juice that is fresh, raw, and unprocessed, not canned, bottled, or powdered. This can ensure that the juice retains its natural nutrients and antioxidants and does not contain any added sugar, preservatives, or artificial flavors or colors. Also, make sure that the juice is prepared and stored hygienically, as it can be contaminated with bacteria and pesticides that can cause infections and illnesses.

  • Drink sugar cane juice that is diluted with water, ice, or other sugar-free liquids, such as lemon juice, coconut water, or green tea. This can reduce the concentration and amount of sugar and calories in the juice and make it more refreshing and satisfying. You can also add some herbs, spices, or fruits, such as mint, ginger, or berries, to enhance the flavor and nutrition of the juice.


Sugar cane juice is a sweet drink that has some health benefits, but also some risks, for people with diabetes. It can affect blood sugar levels, diabetes medications, dental health, and body weight, depending on the amount and type of sugar, the presence of fiber and other nutrients, and the individual’s metabolic response. Therefore, people with diabetes should drink sugar cane juice with caution and moderation, and follow some tips on how to enjoy it safely and responsibly. Sugar cane juice is not a substitute for water or other sugar-free drinks, and it should not be the main source of hydration or nutrition for people with diabetes. Sugar cane juice is a treat that can be enjoyed occasionally and in small amounts, as part of a balanced and healthy diet.

Dr. Karuturi Subrahmanyam, MD, FRCP (London), FACP (USA)

Internal Medicine Specialist

Kify Hospital



Phone : 85000 23456


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