The apparent relationship between coffee and type 2 diabetes is not new. Previous studies have found that drinking a few cups or more each day may lower your risk — with each subsequent cup nudging up the benefit.
This most recent study, published in the journal Diabetologia, was more concerned with how changing coffee consumption — either increasing it or decreasing it over time — might affect your risk.
The conclusion: People who upped their consumption by more than a cup per day had an 11% lower risk of type 2 diabetes compared with people whose consumption held steady. Decreasing coffee consumption by the same amount — more than a cup a day — was associated with a 17% increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
The data is based on an analysis of more than 120,000 health professionals already being followed observationally long term. Researchers looked at the study participants’ coffee drinking habits across four years to reach their conclusions.
Just how much coffee each day provides a benefit?
“For type 2 diabetes, up to six cups per day is associated with lower risk,” said Shilpa Bhupathiraju, a research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health and lead study author, citing previous research. “As long as coffee doesn’t give you tremors, doesn’t make you jittery, it is associated with a lot of health benefits.”
In the case of diabetes, the reasons behind the supposed protection conferred by coffee are not clear, but there are theories based on animal research.
One involves chemicals present in coffee — phenolic compounds and lignans — that may improve glucose metabolism, according to Bhupathiraju. She added that coffee is rich in magnesium, which is also associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
Coffee drinking linked to longer life
Wait, though. Before you scramble out to purchase your fourth latte of the day, it is important to note that the type of coffee matters.
Lattes and other types of specialty drinks — often laden with sugar — were not studied. The type of coffee involved in this study tended to be a simple eight-ounce cup of black coffee containing about 100 milligrams of caffeine.
“People think of (increasing their intake) as going and drinking an extra blended drink,” said Bhupathiraju. “We are not talking about ‘frappuchinos’ or lattes. It’s black coffee with milk and sugar.”
Coffee good for you, but it’s OK to hold back
And while coffee may be associated with a reduction in some chronic diseases (not just diabetes, but cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, and — according to a New England Journal of Medicine study — with a longer life, overall) scientists are still reluctant to call coffee a panacea.
That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy one more cup in the meantime.