Caring Currents

Do Drinking Coffee and Tea Prevent Diabetes?

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People who drink several cups of coffee or tea a day -- even decaf versions -- can dramatically lower their risk of diabetes, researchers reported on Monday. Drinking three to four cups of coffee per day was associated with a 25 percent lower risk of diabetes than drinking no coffee or just one cup, researchers said.

And the more coffee or tea you drink, the greater the benefit -- so keep that pot filled. "Every additional cup of coffee consumed in a day was associated with a 7 percent reduction in the excess risk of diabetes," wrote Rachel Huxley, who headed a team of Australian researchers at the George Institute for International Health in Sydney, Australia. The study was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

One reason this study is making headlines around the world is that the conclusions didn't come from just one study, but were the result of what's called a "meta-analysis" of 18 different studies, which together included more than 450,000 people.

Although Huxley said the study didn't identify exactly how coffee and tea are controlling diabetes, the researchers singled out a series of antioxidants and other ingredients that seem to be responsible for the beneficial effects. These include:

  • magnesium
  • chemicals called lignans
  • chlorogenic acids

This news is important for aging Americans because the number of people with diabetes is rising so fast. Right now, one in ten adults in North America has diabetes, and the International Diabetes Federation projects that by the year 2025 (which is only 15 years away) 380 million people worldwide could have type 2 diabetes.

It's not like you want to go crazy with the espresso -- there's no question that caffeine can have some negative health effects, especially after a certain point. You can feel jittery or anxious, and drinking caffeine after noon has been shown to undermine sleep. And, in a confusing twist, a big dose of caffeine (the equivalent of drinking four or more cups of coffee) has been found to be bad for diabetics, potentially unbalancing blood sugar.

But that's another thing about this study that's so interesting; decaf coffee and decaffeinated tea were found to be just as beneficial. So start your day with a cup or two of Joe (which also prevents stroke and Parkinson's) then switch to decaf or tea for the rest of the day. You'll be less likely to snack unhealthfully, and you'll be helping your body stave off diabetes.

Here are four more tried-and-true ways to prevent diabetes:

1. Lose weight. Even dropping just a few pounds can cut your risk.
2. Get moving. Being sedentary raises diabetes risk; walking or doing some other moderate exercise for 30 minutes a day significantly lowers risk.
3. Control blood pressure. Hypertension (high blood pressure) is associated with a higher diabetes risk.
4. Control cholesterol. Keep your cholesterol in the safe range to prevent diabetes.

Are there other tips that have worked for you? Let us know.