Everydaythealth.com says people who frequently drink coffee may have a lower risk of diabetes, according to new research, but experts say that more research needs to be done.
Many people can’t start the day without a cup of coffee, and that morning cup may be doing much more than giving them a boost of energy – it may also help ward off type 2 diabetes. There is growing evidence that a relatively small amount of coffee can cut your type 2 diabetes risk by nearly a third — as long as you don’t add too much sugar.
Most recently, researchers from Qingdao University in China analyzed 26 studies on coffee and type 2 diabetes, involving a total of more than 1 million participants. They found that those who drank the most coffee were up to 30 percent less likely to develop diabetes than those who drank the least amount. They published the results in the European Journal of Nutrition in October.
It’s unclear why exactly coffee reduced diabetes risk, but Steven Zodkoy, DC, a nutrition specialist with the American Clinical Board of Nutritionists, said it probably has to do with the level of caffeine in the drink.
“The amount of risk reduction was directly tied to the amount of caffeine in the coffee,” Dr. Zodkoy said. “The caffeinated coffee did a much better job that the decaffeinated coffee in all of the studies.”
Caffeine is a stimulant that has been linked to lower weight and faster metabolism – two key factors in diabetes risk, Zodkoy noted.
“The people [in the study] who were drinking more of the coffee were thinner, which is huge in lowering your risk for diabetes,” he said. “The fact that the coffee drinkers had a low BMI was likely the major reason for their lower risk.”
However, Drab, PharmD, an associate professor of pharmacy and therapeutics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy, said it’s unclear whether caffeine is the reason for the lower risk. “I’m not sure that we can say that it’s caffeine,” Dr. Drab said, “because we don’t see the same benefit in soda drinkers or in people who drink of caffeinated beverages.”
Benefits of Black Coffee Are Best
It’s not just brewed coffee that may help – other studies have found that consuming raw, unroasted coffee beans lowered blood sugar in healthy people, which could help prevent diabetes.
Zodkoy said the coffee drinkers in the studies analyzed had a healthier diet, which would have further reduced their risk.
“People who drank coffee in the studies tended to drink much less sugary soda,” said Zodkoy. “Sugar-sweetened drinks are known to cause obesity, which is linked to diabetes. So if you add a bunch of sugar to your coffee, you’re probably reducing the benefits.”
Drab agreed, and said that people often think that any coffee drink will confer this benefit.
“When we’re talking about coffee, we’re not talking about lattes that are loaded with sugar and calories,” Dr. Drab said. “These kinds of drinks can be very problematic for patients with diabetes or those who are at risk.”
Drab, who said he doesn’t drink coffee, advises his patients who do to drink it black. “If you can’t drink it black, use a low-fat creamer and an artificial sweetener,” he said.
In addition, Zodkoy said that it’s important to understand how much coffee you actually drink. The researchers found that the biggest benefit came at around six cups per day – but that’ doesn’t mean you need to fill your mug that many times.
“A cup of coffee is actually measured at 5 ounces,” Zodkoy explained. “So if you drink a mug, you’re already at two cups.”
Ultimately, while the findings show that coffee may have some protective benefit, both Drab and Zodkoy said more research needs to be done before they recommend drinking coffee as a way to prevent diabetes.
“I’m not encouraging or discouraging people to drink it,” Drab said. “We need some randomized trials to really be sure of coffee’s true benefit.”
Especially since too much coffee can be problematic, “Too much coffee can cause sleep problems, anxiety, headaches and stomach issues,” Zodkoy said. “It’s all about balance.”