Coffee: Can You Lower Your Risk of Diabetes by Drinking It?

coffee with milk forming heart pattern

What You Need to Know: A new study published in the journal Diabetologia has revealed that increasing your daily consumption of coffee may help protect against diabetes. According to the researchers, individuals who increased their daily coffee intake by more than one cup over a four-year period had an 11 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

“The link between coffee consumption and type 2 diabetes is pretty well established,” lead author Shilpa Bhupathiraju, research fellow in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health. “What we don’t know is what happens when people change their consumption. That’s never been studied, but that reflects people changing their diet in real life.”

The Study: Bhupathiraju and her team utilized data from three large cohorts: 48,464 women in the Brigham and Women’s Hospital-based Nurses’ Health Study (1986 – 2006); 47,510 women in the Nurses’ Health Study II (1991 – 2007); and 27,759 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (1986 – 2007). For all the groups, diet was assessed every four years, while medical and lifestyle changes were reported every two years. Over the study periods, 7,269 people developed type 2 diabetes. The Evidence: The researchers found that changing coffee consumption – either increasing it or lowering it – had an impact on the risk for diabetes.

“Compared to those who made no changes to coffee consumption habits over a four-year period, those who increased coffee by more than a cup each day had an 11 percent lower risk of type 2 diabetes,” Bhupathiraju reports. “Those who decreased coffee consumption by more than cup had a 17 percent higher risk of type 2 diabetes.”

Can I Get the Same Benefits By Drinking Tea or Decaffeinated Coffee? Overall, they didn’t see any association between diabetes risk and these types of beverages, but Bhupathiraju explained that few people in the study made changes to their decaf or tea consumption, making the numbers too low to analyze well. As for why caffeinated coffee may have this protective health effect, Bhupathiraju said the morning drink holds a number of beneficial compounds, which may play important roles in both metabolism and cardiovascular health.

“Coffee has a lot of bioactive compounds and phenolic compounds, such as chlorogenic acid. Chlorogenic acid improves glucose metabolism in animal models that have been studied,” she explains. Coffee also has other compounds like lignans, and it’s also a source of magnesium, which is associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.”

So Coffee is Recommended? Coffee isn’t without its critics. Although recent research has pointed to many of the drink’s health benefits, other studies have also found some downsides associated with the beverage – with one study linking heavy coffee consumption with a higher risk of early death. Bhupathiraju offers that coffee isn’t a miracle “drug” by any means, and it’s important not to drink too much.

“With respect to chronic disease, there’s been consistent evidence that, up to six cups a day, it’s associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. The evidence is pretty solid,” Bhupathiraju said. “For cardiovascular disease, you see a U-shaped association. So there’s no association at the lower end or higher end, but you see a protective effect in the middle. So three cups a day, you see a lower risk.”

My Take: The keys to enhancing health are maintenance of a healthy body weight and following a healthy lifestyle (proper nutrition and exercise). In this context, moderate coffee consumption appears to be associated with lower chronic disease. I’m Dr. Michael Hunter, and I live in that center of coffee consumption, Seattle. And there is none who loves the smell of coffee more than does this blogger! But… to my LDS friends… don’t do it!

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

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References:; Diabetologia (2005) 48: 1418 DOI 10.1007/s00125-005-1790-7

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Harvard AB Yale MD UPenn Radiation Oncology Radiation Oncologist, Seattle area

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