Caffeine Can Help Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

Wed, 03 Feb 2010
Face it: our society is addicted to caffeine . A guilty pleasure for some and a necessary vice for others, coffee and tea are among the most-consumed beverages in the world.

Caffeine, a biologically active ingredient in tea and coffee, is a stimulant with addictive properties that has effects on many parts of our body. Cravings aside, though, is it good for you or bad for you? Health-Watch takes a closer look at a recent study suggesting that high caffeine intake can stave off diabetes .

Tell me about diabetes and its consequences.

A brief refresher course: Type 2 diabetes, the kind we're examining here, accounts for 90 per cent of all cases. It occurs when your body becomes resistant to the effects of insulin, which normally controls the level of sugar in your blood .

While asymptomatic in the early phase, its very real consequences can include heart attacks and strokes, numbness and poor circulation, kidney failure, foot ulcers and blindness . Most commonly, diabetes leads to heart disease that stems from the long-term effects on the coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart; the blockages that develop can lead to heart attacks. Here, in Canada, more than three million of us have diabetes, and this number is expected to reach 3.7 million by 2020.

What causes diabetes?

If you're age 40 or over, you're at risk for Type 2 diabetes and should be tested at least every three years. While there is a genetic predisposition to diabetes, obesity is tightly linked, as is one other modifiable risk factor -- a sedentary lifestyle. Exercise has been proven to prevent diabetes.

What are the health effects of caffeine?

Caffeine has been given a bad rap by some, partly because of its tendency to give us the jitters and keep us awake at night. That, and a 1981 study showing an association between caffeine and pancreatic cancer, which turned out to be related to the co-consumption of cigarettes, not caffeine.

For most, the amount of caffeine in two to four cups of coffee a day is not harmful. On the positive side, some preliminary research suggests that it has a protective effect against Alzheimers disease .

So, possible agitation and sleep disturbance aside, there doesn't seem to be much of a serious downside to caffeine consumption.

The study.

Huxley R, Man Ying Lee C, Barzi F et al. Coffee, decaffeinated coffee, and tea consumption in relation to incident Type 2 diabetes mellitus. A systematic review with meta- analysis. Arch Intern Med. 2009;169 (22): 2053-2063.

How was this research conducted?

This study was a compilation of all of the studies that have ever looked at caffeine consumption and the chances of developing diabetes.

A similar study in 2005 that incorporated findings on nearly 200,000 participants reported that drinking six or seven cups of coffee per day reduced a person's risk of developing diabetes by one-third.

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