Diabetes and Diet: Can Coffee Lower Your Risk?

While soda may boost your diabetes risk, coffee may lower it.

When researchers followed 96,000 women and 27,000 men for four years, those who upped their coffee intake by about two cups a day had an 11 percent lower risk of diabetes—while those who cut their intake by about two cups a day had a 17 percent higher risk—compared to those who didn’t change.

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“Coffee is very consistently linked to a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, even two or three cups a day,” says JoAnn Manson, director of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Note that she’s talking about an 8 oz. cup, not a Starbucks cup, which is typically 12 oz. (tall), 16 oz. (grande), or 20 oz. (venti).

Researchers aren’t sure why coffee may matter. “It’s not necessarily the caffeine, because even decaf is linked to a lower risk, though not as strongly as regular coffee,” explains Manson.

So far, few studies have tested whether coffee can boost insulin sensitivity. In one preliminary study, both regular and decaf coffee seemed to curb the insulin resistance triggered by six days on a high-fructose diet.

But Manson adds some cautions.

“Overall, I think coffee is very safe in terms of heart disease and chronic disease. But many people get jittery and get a rapid heart rate, especially if they drink more than three cups a day.”

What’s more, many coffee drinks are loaded with sugar and calories.

“People may think, ‘I should get a large Frappuccino because coffee prevents diabetes,’” says Manson. “All those extra calories are not going to reduce the risk of diabetes.”

Sources: Diabetologia 2014. doi:10.1007/s00125-014-3235-7; Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 99: 268, 2014.

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