Good news for coffee lovers. In a long-term study, coffee drinkers were about half as likely to develop type 2 diabetes compared to those who didn't drink coffee. Researchers think an inflammation-lowering effect of coffee might be responsible for its protective effects.
A protective relationship between coffee intake and diabetes has been reported in many earlier prospective studies.
Since the researchers merely observed the study participants, and didn't assign them randomly to drink or abstain from coffee, they still can't be sure that drinking coffee helps prevent diabetes, but their findings might help form the basis of a cause-and-effect hypothesis.
In 2001 and 2002, the researchers selected a random sample of more than 1,300 men and women age 18 years and older in Athens. The participants filled out dietary questionnaires including questions about coffee drinking frequency.
Drinking less than 1.5 cups of coffee per day was termed “casual” coffee drinking, and more than 1.5 cups per day was “habitual” drinking. There were 816 casual drinkers, 385 habitual drinkers and 239 non-coffee drinkers.
The participants also had blood tests to evaluate levels of protein markers of inflammation. The tests also measured antioxidant levels, which indicate the body’s ability to neutralize cell-damaging “free radicals.”
Ten years later, 191 people had developed diabetes, including 13 percent of the men and 12 percent of the women in the original group. Participants who reported higher coffee consumption had lower risks of developing diabetes.
Habitual coffee drinkers were 54 percent less likely to develop diabetes compared to non-coffee drinkers, even after accounting for smoking, high blood pressure, family history of diabetes and intake of other caffeinated beverages.
Levels of serum amyloid, one of the inflammatory markers in the blood, seemed to explain some of the relationship between coffee and diabetes. Higher coffee consumption went along with lower amyloid levels.
The new findings are supported by a prospective study in 2013 involving 836 people who didn't have diabetes at the start of the study. Over the next seven years, high levels of amyloid and another inflammatory marker called C-reactive protein were found to precede the onset of diabetes, independently of other risk factors.
Oxidative stress has been shown to accelerate the dysfunction of the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin and consuming antioxidants has been shown to decrease diabetes risk. It’s possible, then, that the antioxidant in coffee may be beneficial.
We are not yet sure that coffee helps prevent diabetes, but “what is sure and remains more effective is exercise and body weight control,” said the lead researcher.
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