Does Coffee Reduce Risk of Diabetes?

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As diabetics and pre-diabetics, we’re used to being told about all the foods and drinks we have to avoid. But according to recent studies, coffee is not on that list. In fact, moderate coffee drinking may even be tied to lower risk of death.

So if your day begins only after you’ve sipped that first sip of joe, continue sipping at your leisure–or are there drawbacks? As you’ll see, it’s not a clear black and white issue.

On frequent occasions, I run into people who think coffee is the definition of “devil’s brew” and that it’s going to be the end of me. Especially when I tell them about my diabetes issues.

“Gotta get off that coffee,” they’ll tell me with a knowing look. Well, that got my research nerves a-tingling, so I decided I had to look into it.

The issue: Should diabetics avoid coffee?

In short, it’s probably not necessary. In fact, there are several major reports recently that show that people who drink coffee daily, even up to four cups or so, are actually LESS likely to die from type 2 diabetes, heart disease, neurological disease or even suicide, than those who don’t drink it.

To be clear, upping your coffee intake would not necessarily improve your future health outlook. It doesn’t make you healthier, so don’t start drinking it just for health reasons! Rather, the study found that coffee consumed in moderation does not harm most patients, and as a side benefit, may actually reduce the risk of death from diabetes or cardiovascular disease.

And that’s a good thing. For some people, coffee can be part of a healthy diet, even if they’re diabetic.

One study we looked at was conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston in 2015.  It examined coffee intake (caffeinated, decaffeinated or both) by two different groups: 160,000 women in the Nurses’ Health Study 1 and 2, and 40,000 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. The studies ran from the mid-1980’s or early ’90’s.

Participants drank from zero to six cups a day.

During the research period, 19,524 women and 12,432 men died.

Interestingly, the survey found that those who drank one to five cups of any type of coffee daily were less likely to have died than those who drank no coffee at all.

So diabetics can even drink caffeinated coffee with no problems? Not so fast.

For that answer to that, we have to look at yet another study. Dr. James Lane, PhD, from Duke University did a study on the impact of caffeine on diabetics, and his research showed that caffeine actually makes it hard for people with diabetes to managed their blood sugar levels. On day when patients consumed caffeinated coffee, their blood sugar levels were 8% higher.

“Caffeine increases blood glucose by as much as oral diabetics medications decrease it,” Lane said in an interview with WebMD.

Another study led by the Harvard School of Public Health also weighed in on this issue. It focused more on how coffee drinking impacted the risk of getting diabetes in the first place.

According to the results, people who increased their coffee consumption by one cup a day over the 4 years of the study had an 11 percent lower risk for type 2 diabetes than those who made no changes to their coffee intake. It also found that those who lowered their coffee consumption by one cup a day increased their chances of getting type 2 diabetes by 17 percent.

Other studies seem to conclude that coffee and caffeine are linked to both increased blood sugar levels and insulin resistance.  Even more studies show that there’s a link between diabetic coffee drinkers and the length of time they exercise each week. Prolonged exercise was shown to reduce blood sugar levels.

So how do we make sense out of all this without spending years on research ourselves?

It’s apparent that coffee affects different people in various ways. If you just cannot start your day without coffee, consider switching to decaf. Avoid adding anything that may spike your blood sugar levels (such as sugar, creamers and flavorings containing carbohydrates). Keep your intake under five cups a day. Remember that even one cup affects some diabetics negatively, while five cups is just fine for others. We’re all different in the way our bodies react, so monitor yourself carefully to see how coffee impacts you personally. Follow a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and keep an eye on your blood sugar.

Or if you really want the safest route of all, drink water.

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