Dr. Campbell: Coffee drinking may reduce risk for Type 2 diabetes

J.P. Aristizabal


RALEIGH, NC (WNCN) – A new study shows coffee may reduce the risk for Type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes, formerly called adult-onset diabetes, is the most common type of diabetes. About 95 percent of people with diabetes have Type 2.

This type of diabetes develops most often in middle-aged and older people. People who are overweight and inactive are also more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body no longer responds to insulin, a particular hormone produced in the Beta cells in our pancreas.

It is essential in helping the body move nutrients (sugars) from the bloodstream into the body’s cells to be used for fuel. In Type 2, the body becomes “insulin-resistant” and is not able to handle sugars properly. At first, your pancreas keeps up with the added demand by producing more insulin. But in time, your pancreas loses its ability to produce enough insulin, and blood glucose levels rise.

Risk factors for Type 2 diabetes include obesity and family history.

In 2001 and 2002, 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.

In the study, 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 that measured levels of certain proteins that are markers of inflammation as well as antioxidant levels (antioxidants are thought to protect cells from damage).

Ten years later, 191 people had developed diabetes, however, participants who reported higher coffee consumption had lower likelihoods of developing diabetes. In fact, habitual coffee drinkers were 54 percent less likely to develop diabetes compared to non-coffee drinkers.

Levels of serum amyloid, one of the inflammatory markers in the blood correlated with the presence of diabetes—those with higher levels of amyloid had greater risk for diabetes–most interestingly, those with higher coffee consumption had lower levels of amyloid measured.

Findings were reported in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

While the study was not designed to look at cause and effect, we may have some ideas about why this association exists.

This new study seems to indicate that coffee may play a role in decreasing inflammation—this is not unusual as it has been shown to decrease heart disease in other studies, as well as improve cognitive function—all of these things are associated with inflammation.
Given that the inflammatory markers are diminished in patients in this study who had lower rates of diabetes this association between coffee, inflammation and diabetes risk seems relatively credible.

We must remember that this is an association between increased coffee consumption and diabetes risk, not precise cause and effect.

We have not yet proven that coffee helps prevent diabetes, but what we are sure of is that exercise and body weight control are critical to Type 2 diabetes prevention.

This study was observational and did not randomly assign patients to randomly drink or abstain from coffee, so no firm conclusions can be drawn. However, their findings might help form the basis of a cause-and-effect hypothesis. Other clinical trials have shown that coffee consumption—in moderation—is good for our health so this is a promising finding.

To get in touch with Dr. Campbell, you can head to his website, Facebook page or message him on Twitter.

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