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Coffee and Diabetes

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.


Natella F, Scaccini C. Role of coffee in modulation of diabetes risk. Nutrition Reviews. April 2012.

National Coffee Association. 2012 National Coffee Drinking Trends. http://www.ncausa.org/i4a/pages/Index.cfm?pageID=731

National Coffee Association. 2008 National Coffee Drinking Trends. http://www.ncausa.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=201

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

Westerterp KR. Diet induced thermogenesis. Nutrition and Metabolism. August 2004.

de Valk HW. Magnesium in diabetes mellitus. The Netherlands Journal of Medicine. April 1999.

PubMed Health. Diabetes. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002194/

van Dam RM, Hu FB. Coffee consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: a systematic review. The Journal of the American Medical Association. July 2005.

Huxley R, Lee CM, Barzi F, Timmermeister L, Czernichow S, Perkovic V, Grobbee DE, Batty D, Woodward M. Coffee, decaffeinated coffee, and tea consumption in relation to incident type 2 diabetes mellitus: a systematic review with meta-analysis. Archives of Internal Medicine. December 2009.

Williams CJ, Fargnoli JL, Hwang JJ, van Dam RM, Blackburn GL, Hu FB, Mantzoros CS. Coffee consumption is associated with higher plasma adiponectin concentrations in women with or without type 2 diabetes: a prospective cohort study. Diabetes Care. March 2008.

Adeney KL, Williams MA, Schiff MA, Qiu C, Sorensen TK. Coffee consumption and the risk of gestational diabetes mellitus. Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavia. 2007.

Sartorelli DS, Fagherazzi G, Balkau B, Touillaud MS, Boutron-Ruault MC, de Lauzon-Guillain B, Clavel-Chapelon F. Differential effects of coffee on the risk of type 2 diabetes according to meal consumption in a French cohort of women: the E3N/EPIC cohort study. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. April 2010.

Freedman ND, Park Y, Abnet CC, Hollenbeck AR, Sinha R. Association of coffee drinking with total and cause-specific mortality. The New England Journal of Medicine. May 2012.

Copyright © 2012 Nutrition Remarks. All rights reserved


Coffee Reduces Diabetes Risk

Coffee Reduces Diabetes Risk

Coffee and type II diabetes (T2D)

Frontier Voice of Nutrition Remarks (June 11, 2012) <<<Print PDF>>>

NalinSiriwardhana, Ph.D., interviewed Dr. Fausta Natella, Ph.D., from the National Research Institute for Food and Nutrition, in Rome.

Now it is clear that coffee can help to reduce the type 2 diabetes (T2D) risk. Dr. Fausta Natella, Ph.D., and Dr. Cristina Scaccini Ph.D., performed an in depth analysis on available scientific information on coffee and its effect on diabetes risk. Their analysis showed that coffee may reduce the T2D risk regardless of race, gender, geographic distribution, or the type of coffee consumed (i.e., caffeinated or decaffeinated). Further, these experts suggest that moderate coffee drinking (3-4 cups a day) will be sufficient to be benefitted against T2D.

Nutrition Remarks interviewed Dr. Fausta Natella, Ph.D., who performed this analysis in collaboration with Dr. Cristina Scaccini Ph.D.

Question from Nutrition Remarks: What is the role of coffee in T2D and are there any effect on type I diabetes (T1D) as well?

Answer from Dr. Natella: Several epidemiological evidences indicate that there is an inverse association between coffee consumption and risk of T2D. It means the higher is the consumption the lower is the risk to develop this disease. On the contrary, no effect of coffee consumption on T1D has been observed. It is however worth to mention that the etiology of the T2D and T1D is very different so that the conclusions obtained from studies on T2D cannot be extrapolated to T1D.

Question: In general, how many coffees a day is known to improve diabetes health effects?

Answer: The inverse association between coffee consumption and T2D risk is dose-dependent. The last published scientific analysis (meta-analysis by Huxley in 2009) shows about 7% reduction of the risk per cup of coffee consumed per day. Though it has beneficial effect on T2D, we cannot recommend increasing the coffee consumption as a strategy for the prevention of diabetes as a high consumption of coffee can also have some negative effects on health (e.g. increasing pressure and cholesterol level, causing anxiety and sleeplessness in susceptible individuals). Hence, we suggest a moderate coffee consumption not exceeding 3-4 cups per day.

Question: In general, the effects of coffee are preventive or therapeutic or both?

Answer: The effects of coffee are only preventive. The few and contrasting data on the possible effects of coffee consumption on diabetic patients do not allow us to draw any definitive conclusion; we can only state that a moderate coffee consumption does not seem to be contraindicated in diabetics.

Question: What are the most effective bioactive compounds in the coffee that can prevent T2D?

Answer: Generally, the effects of coffee on health are related to caffeine that owns several “pharmacological” effects on human body, mainly at the level of the central nervous system. However, coffee contains several other bioactive molecules (over 1000 chemicals have been identified in roasted coffee). Among them polyphenolic compounds are the most abundant and may play a significant role in protecting our body from T2D.

Question: What is the role of coffee polyphenols in reducing T2D?

Answer: Many different mechanisms have been proposed to explain how coffee-phenolic compounds exert their action. However, at the moment, there is no conclusive scientific consent about them, and it is not possible to define exact mechanisms.

Question: What is your opinion on proper time gaps between meal and coffee? Should there be a time gap?

Answer: According to a recent epidemiological study published by Sartorelli and colleagues in 2011, the anti-diabetic effect of coffee is not only related to frequency and amount of coffee consumption, but is also related to the modality of the consumption. In particular, one study has shown that the consumption of coffee after lunch further reduces the risk of contracting this disease. It is however important to stress that only one evidence is not sufficient to draw any definitive scientific conclusion. Thus, to give any suggestion, further researches are needed to confirm this hypothesis.

Question: Does decaffeinated coffee have same or different effects compared to regular coffee?

Answer: Epidemiological studies indicate that the association between coffee consumption and T2D is valid also for decaffeinated coffee. That’s why we think that the anti-diabetes role of coffee is not only due to caffeine, but also due to other bioactive compounds in the coffee.

Question: Is there any evidence to suggest that espresso have more pronounced effects than regular coffee? Also, does it make any difference when adding sugar, cream and milk into coffee?

Answer: No, the capacity of coffee to decrease D2T risk seems to be the same whatever is the coffee (brand, blend, amount of powder used for preparation, etc). Also the use of milk, cream, sugar and/or other sweeteners does not seem to drastically reduce the beneficial effect of coffee.

Question: What are the other significant health benefits of coffee other than reducing the diabetes risk?

Answer: Coffee consumption has also been correlated with the reduced risk of colon cancer and neurodegenerative diseases (such as Alzheimer and Parkinson).

However, it is really important to keep in mind that we can not recommend a high consumption of coffee as it has some negative effect on our health (e.g. increasing pressure and cholesterol level, causing anxiety and sleeplessness in susceptible individuals).

Question: What other important information we did not discuss here?

Answer: We should never forget that foods/beverages are not drugs, and that foods/beverages are not good or bad in themselves; it is only the diet as a whole (and lifestyle) that may be good or bad. The influence of coffee consumption on diabetes should always be set into healthy eating and lifestyle practices. We have to remember that coffee may help, but diabetes has to be prevented in first place by controlling overweight and obesity and by increasing physical activity.

This news release was based on the original scientific article published by Drs. Natella and Scaccini in the Nutrition Reviews journal. Additional general background information was acquired from PubMed and NIH sources.

Original work; Natella et al., (2012) Role of coffee in modulation of diabetes risk . Nutrition Reviews 70:4 207-217

Dr. Fausta Natella, Ph.D., is a researcher at the National Research Institute for Food and Nutrition, Rome (Italy). Her research activities focus on the study of the effects of diet, foods, isolated nutrients, non-nutrients, and their metabolites on human health.

Dr. Cristina Scaccini, Ph.D., is a senior scientist at the National Research Institute for Food and Nutrition (INRAN),Rome, and is Principal Investigator of the research team “Bioavailability, metabolism and biological effects of dietary bioactive molecules”.

More about Dr. Natella work


Written by Nalin Siriwardhana, Ph.D. and Shambhunath Choudhary, DVM Ph.D

Copyright © 2012 Nutrition Remarks. All rights reserved