Coffee and Diabetes
Can drinking coffee lower your risk for developing diabetes?
Written by Emily Creasy, MS, RD, LD, (Nutrition Remarks writer), Reviewed by Nalin Siriwardhana, Ph.D.
Health News Highlights (June 15, 2012) <<<Print PDF>>>
After water and tea, coffee is one of the most commonly consumed beverages in the world. According to the National Coffee Association, about 64 percent of Americans consume some form of coffee each day. In recent years, many links have been made associating coffee consumption with improved health, living longer, and a decreased risk for developing diseases such as heart disease and infections. A strong connection is also being identified linking coffee intake with a decreased risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
Coffee contains a large number of bioactive compounds including polyphenols, soluble fiber, lipids or fats, sugars known as polysaccharides, and minerals. These compounds work in our bodies to help keep us healthy by removing harmful compounds.
It is also known that coffee contains high amounts of caffeine. In our body, caffeine acts as a nerve stimulant and can help to improve brain functioning, enhance mental alertness and concentration, and decrease feelings of tiredness or fatigue. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), an average cup of coffee contains anywhere from 60 to 150 mg caffeine.
The thermogenic affect (production of heat within your body) of both coffee and caffeine may help to prevent diabetes. Diet-induced thermogenensis occurs when a food or beverage increases your energy levels by breaking down calories from fat. By promoting thermogenesis, coffee may help to promote fat breakdown, resulting in potential weight loss and an overall decreased risk for developing both diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Caffeine alone has been shown to negatively affect blood glucose levels and insulin sensitivity, however when it is consumed in coffee, other factors in coffee work to counteract these negative effects. It is postulated that magnesium, a mineral component of coffee, may work to promote glucose metabolism in the blood. Magnesium has long been known to offer many benefits in the body including improved glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity. On the other hand, coffee is known to reduce magnesium absorption.
Similarly, the high antioxidant content of coffee may help to protect the pancreas by preventing damage to it’s healthy cells.. The pancreas is responsible for producing insulin. In your body, insulin is needed to remove the sugar from your blood and allow it to get into cells where the sugar can then be used for energy. By keeping the pancreas healthy, unwanted stress can be avoided and a steady production of insulin can be maintained.
Diabetes can be basically divided into three main types: Type 1, Type 2, and gestational diabetes. While Type 1 diabetes is typically present from childhood, both Type 2 and gestational diabetes develop as a result of lifestyle changes and choices. Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease in which higher than normal levels of sugar, or glucose, exist in your blood.
Normally, your body is able to produce enough insulin. For those with Type 1 diabetes, the body does not make enough insulin on it’s own, therefore insulin must be supplemented via medications. In the case of Type 2 diabetes, your body makes enough insulin, however your cells do not respond correctly to it making it more difficult to remove the sugar from your blood. Overtime, the sugar builds up in the blood resulting in hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar levels. If left untreated, hyperglycemia can lead to more serious problems, including nerve damage, eye and foot problems, and a decreased ability to fight off infections.
Factors which may increase your risk for developing diabetes include, but are not limited to, decreased physical activity levels, following a poor diet rich in fats and sugars, having a family history of diabetes, and being overweight or obese.
Gestational diabetes is a condition that develops during pregnancy. An increase in hormones interferes with insulin preventing it from removing sugar from the blood properly. Generally women with gestational diabetes experience normal blood sugar levels after delivery, however they do have an increased risk for developing Type 2 diabetes later in life.
Studies have consistently shown that regular coffee consumption can help to decrease blood glucose levels, regardless of age, race, gender, or geographic location. The maintenance of normal blood glucose levels overtime can help to decrease your risk for developing Type 2 diabetes.
Dr. van Dam and Dr. Hu from the Department of Nutrition and Health, Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, the Netherlands, reviewed a total of 15 epidemiological research studies involving over 200,000 participants, and found that consuming higher amounts of coffee (4 or more cups per day) each day consistently resulted in a 35 percent decreased risk for developing Type 2 diabetes.
Similarly, after analyzing 20 additional studies on coffee and diabetes, Dr. Huxley and colleagues, at the George Institute for International Health, The University of Sydney, Australia, found that each cup of coffee you drink per day can decrease your risk for Type 2 diabetes by about 7 percent. Based on this, drinking just two cups of coffee a day can decrease your risk for Type 2 diabetes by 14 percent.
Results were seen using both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee. The blood sugar lowering affects do not depend on the caffeine content of coffee, but rather the many other natural bioactive compounds found in the beverage.
According to Drs. Natella and Scaccini, a large amount of epidemiological studies consistently associate coffee consumption with a decreased occurrence of impaired glucose tolerance, hyperglycemia, hyperinsulinemia, and insulin sensitivity, all of which are typically associated with Type 2 diabetes.
A study by Dr. Williams and colleagues at the Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts, discovered that caffeinated coffee may be especially beneficial for women, as it helps to promote higher levels of adinopectin in the body. Adinopectin is a hormone known to regulate glucose breakdown and insulin sensitivity. In addition, adiponectin is a well known anti-inflammatory cytokine that helps to maintain good health. It is typically found to be low in those with diabetes. Based on their study, consuming at least three cups of caffeinated coffee per day may help to keep adinopectin levels high in women with and without diabetes.
Moderate coffee consumption by women prior to becoming pregnant may also help to decrease the risk for developing gestational diabetes. A study by Dr. Adeney and colleagues at the Department of Epidemiology, University of Washington School of Public Health and Community Medicine, found that these preventative effects were not noted in women who drank coffee during pregnancy. Coffee consumption during pregnancy is often ill advised due to the potential health risks for both the mother and unborn child.
How you prepare your coffee and when you consume it may also play a role in its protective capacity. While Americans typically consume coffee as a breakfast beverage, a study by Dr. Sartorelli and colleagues at the Department of Social Medicine, University of São Paulo, Brazil, found that the optimal time for coffee consumption may be after lunch. Coffee consumption with a mid-day meal was associated with a significantly decreased risk for diabetes. Effects were seen with caffeinated and decaffeinated as well as sweetened and black coffee.
While sugar consumption is often associated with the development of diabetes, Dr. Natella and Dr. Scaccini report that adding it to coffee does not appear to interfere with the protective affects coffee has to offer. However, consuming high amounts of sugar in the diet overtime may affect your body’s insulin sensitivity leading to an increased risk for developing Type 2 diabetes.
Coffee contains many bioactive compounds that may help to promote improved health. A recent study by Dr. Freedman and colleagues at the National Institutes of Health reports that regular coffee consumption may even help you to live longer. Based on scientific research, daily coffee intake can decrease your risk for developing diabetes over time. It is important to monitor your coffee intake, as increased caffeine intake may lead to unwanted symptoms of dehydration, distraction, jitteriness and loss of sleep. Discuss your diet with your doctor or a dietitian to determine a safe amount of coffee for your specific needs.
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U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Medicines in My Home: Caffeine and Your Body. http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/BuyingUsingMedicineSafely/UnderstandingOver-the-CounterMedicines/UCM205286.pdf
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