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Could More Coffee Lower Your Odds for Diabetes?

Yes, says study, but experts note there are better ways to reduce the risk

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Steven Reinberg

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, April 24, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Drinking more coffee might lower your risk for type 2 diabetes, a new large U.S. study suggests.

People who boosted their daily java intake by more than one cup over four years reduced their diabetes risk, while adults who drank less coffee in that time frame saw their odds for diabetes rise, the study of over 123,000 adults found.

"It looks like there is a dose-response relationship between increasing coffee consumption and a lower risk of diabetes," said lead researcher Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health.

"Basically, the more coffee, the lower the risk of diabetes," Hu said. "People who drink three to five cups of coffee a day enjoyed a significant reduction in type 2 diabetes risk."

However, people can drink too much coffee, particularly those who don't respond well to caffeine, Hu cautioned. Caffeine, a stimulant, keeps some people awake, and can also cause the heart to speed up.

"It's hard to pinpoint which components of coffee may contribute to a decreased risk of type 2 diabetes," Hu said. "Current thinking is that it is the combination of antioxidants and other nutrients in coffee that are responsible for a lower risk of developing diabetes."

The study, published online April 24 in Diabetologia, shows an association between more coffee and lower diabetes risk but can't actually prove that one causes the other, Hu said. However, experiments in animals and a small human trial did find a cause-and-effect relationship between coffee and reduced insulin resistance, he said. Insulin resistance is a warning sign of diabetes.

Coffee can be part of a healthy diet, but people shouldn't look to it as a way to prevent type 2 diabetes, Hu said. "People should still watch their weight and be physically active," he added.

Like Hu, other experts aren't ready to advise patients to up their coffee intake just yet.

"It appears from the study that coffee can protect at least certain populations from developing type 2 diabetes," said Dr. Joel Zonszein, director of the Clinical Diabetes Center at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.

"However, as with everything else, the message is not drinking coffee to prevent diabetes, but rather balancing all good elements in life so they can all be used and consumed with moderation," he said.

Dr. Spyros Mezitis, an endocrinologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said a drawback of the study is that the data was all self-reported by the participants.

"You don't know if they are telling the truth," he said.

Moreover, weight loss and exercise are more effective ways to reduce diabetes risk than drinking more coffee, Mezitis said.

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