This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on May 7, 2014.
It’s OK to pour yourself that extra cup of coffee in the morning. It just might cut your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, Harvard researchers say.
The researchers analyzed data from more than 120,000 people involved in three long-term studies. Those who increased their daily amount of coffee by more than one cup over a four-year period had an 11 percent lower diabetes risk than people who made no changes to their coffee habit. And those who decreased their coffee consumption by more than a cup in the same time period increased their diabetes risk by 17 percent.
Decaffeinated coffee showed no effect on the risk of diabetes, the researchers noted.
Why coffee? Chemicals in coffee called polyphenols may help the body better use the insulin it makes to process sugar, according to a separate 2012 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. When people can’t use the insulin their bodies produce, diabetes can develop. Coffee is also high in antioxidants and magnesium, which have been linked to diabetes prevention.
Still, the Harvard researchers caution that drinking more coffee isn’t the most important way to stave off diabetes – exercise and healthy weight are key.
The study, published in the journal Diabetologia, defined a cup of coffee as 8 ounces, either black or with a small amount of milk and/or sugar. Coffee is second only to water on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s list of the beverages adults consume most.
Coffee may provide other health benefits. Studies suggest regularly drinking coffee cuts the risk of colon and endometrial cancer and aggressive forms of prostate cancer. Some research even indicates daily coffee drinkers reduce their risk of Parkinson’s disease, cognitive decline and depression, as The Chronicle has previously reported.