Study: Coffee May Help Prevent Type 2 Diabetes.
By: Patrick Mansfield | U.S. Health Alerts

Coffee And Diabetes

Coffee is great for waking up in the morning or getting a boost of energy in the middle of the day, but it also may help prevent type 2 diabetes. Several studies have shown that coffee consumption is linked with a reduced risk of the condition and several other diseases, including:
  • Cancer
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Parkinson's disease
Marilyn Cornelis, PhD, a professor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, says that, out of all foods, "coffee has the most potential to prevent type 2 diabetes." Cornelis has recently received a grant from the American Diabetes Association to do more research on the connection between coffee and diabetes. 

Caffeine likely isn't related to this link because it increases the levels of blood glucose. Cornelis believes that other substances and chemicals in coffee could be the responsible for the reduced risk of the disease. Coffee contains hundreds of chemical compounds and high levels of antioxidants, and the way these substances interact with the body isn't fully understood yet.

Cornelis' goal is to discover exactly how coffee's chemicals prevent the disease, but the first step is to determine what chemicals are involved as the body processes coffee. She says, "When we consume a food, it's broken down into smaller elements that we find in the blood. I'm interested in seeing what [smaller elements] are derived from coffee consumption." 

To do this, she worked with a colleague in Finland to observe blood samples. Residents of Finland consume 2.6 cups of coffee per day per person on average, which is three times the average in the United States and more than any other country. Cornelis studied blood samples from 46 Finns after each participant drank eight cups of coffee every day for a month. She then compared her findings with blood samples from the same participants after they abstained from drinking coffee for four weeks. With these samples, she can identify the smaller elements, or metabolites, that coffee breaks down to once it enters the body. Then, she will try to discover whether the metabolites can prevent diabetes.

According to Cornelis and other researchers, coffee consumption probably isn't as bad of a habit as most people think. The FDA just acknowledged the health benefits of drinking coffee, and they recommended drinking a maximum of five cups a day, which is higher than they previously suggested.

Not everyone will react to drinking five cups of coffee in the same way, though, and encouraging everyone to drink more coffee may not be effective. Cornelis says, "In general, people are already consuming the amount they appear to tolerate. If someone's had too much coffee, they can tell." Some people metabolize caffeine much more quickly than others. While one person could drink two cups of coffee at night and still fall asleep easily, others can feel the effects of one cup for an entire day. People who can tolerate more caffeine usually drink more coffee, so they receive more of the beneficial chemicals.

The studies that show coffee's health benefits still report small results compared to more common and familiar suggestions like exercising and weight management. There are many more tried-and-true methods of preventing type 2 diabetes that people should still focus on. Also, these studies have used black coffee rather than coffee with sugar or milk. The extra calories from sugary coffee would offset the benefits.
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