Prediabetes? The Coffee-Health Connection

Plus, 5 tips on how to do coffee right

New research has shown—yet again—that drinking coffee can reduce your type 2 diabetes risk.

The study, in nearly 1,500 Greek adults followed for a decade, found that people who downed the equivalent of 2.5 to 3 cups of brewed coffee daily had half the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. And people who drank about 1.5 cups of joe a day cut their risk by about 30%.

coffee and type 2 diabetes“Apparently healthy individuals with no history of cardiovascular disease may benefit from daily consumption of this amount of coffee,” one of the study’s authors, Efi Koloverou, MmedSci, a clinical dietitian and doctoral candidate at Harokopio University in Athens, told DiabeticLifestyle in an e-mail interview. The findings were published July 1, 2015 in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition

There were too few decaf drinkers in the new study to draw conclusions about whether caffeine-free brew would have the same benefits. But there’s strong evidence from other research that decaf has similar protective effects, according to Mary Ann Johnson, PhD, the Flatt Professor in Foods and Nutrition at the University of Georgia in Athens and a national spokesperson for the American Society for Nutrition. Researchers suspect that a substance in the coffee bean itself is what helps to lower inflammation in the body. This in turn can reduce overall risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

Johnson points to a 2014 meta-analysis (a study in which the results of several smaller studies are pooled and analyzed together) which included 28 studies and 1.1 million people and found both coffee and decaf coffee drinkers had a reduced likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes. And the more a person drank, the lower their risk.

Java drinkers got more good news earlier this year, when the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee stated that “strong evidence shows that consumption of coffee within the moderate range (3 to 5 cups per day or up to 400 mg/d caffeine) is not associated with increased long-term risks among healthy individuals. In fact, consistent evidence indicates that coffee consumption is associated with reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease in healthy adults.”

The committee goes on to note that coffee drinkers should “minimize the amount of calories from added sugars and high-fat dairy or dairy substitutes added to coffee.”

The guidelines are the first-ever to mention coffee or caffeine, notes Johnson. “To get reviewed in this document means that the information is pretty robust,” she said.

How to Sip Smartly

Nobody’s ready to recommend that non-coffee-drinkers pick up a Starbucks habit to protect themselves against type 2 diabetes. “Our first line of defense is the lifestyle factors: being more physically active, taking a few pounds off, just trying to eat better,” Johnson said. “It’s [coffee] not really being promoted at this time as a preventive measure.”

Also, while coffee appears to lower inflammation in people with prediabetes, caffeinated coffee doesn’t appear to produce the same results in those who already have type 2 diabetes. In fact, one small study found that in some cases, caffeinated coffee may increase blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.

As we know, what we put into the coffee will have a big impact on weight and overall health, so it is important to follow a few rules:

coffee and health

  • Minimize the designer coffee drinks—which are loaded with calories from sugar and fat—and try black coffee instead.
  • Skip the added sugar; try a small amount of one of the non-nutritive sweeteners to add some sweetness.
  • If using a creamer, limit the amount added since there is added calories from sugar and fat: each tablespoon of regular creamer has 20 calories and the flavored creamers have 35 calories each.
  • Instead of creamer for subsequent cups of coffee, use fat-free milk instead.
  • Watch how you react to the amount of coffee you drink. Many people are sensitive to caffeine. Keep in mind a 6 oz serving has approximately 100 mg caffeine. But most people drink out of larger cups, so 1 “cup" may be equivalent to 2-3 servings (200-300 mg of caffeine). The more caffeine someone consumes, the more shaky and jittery they may become – if this happens, it is best to cut back a bit.

Updated on: March 14, 2019
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