Researchers have long investigated the many benefits of coffee beyond the jolt that caffeine provides. Among its potential benefits: reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes. While the mechanism isn't clear, studies have linked coffee consumption to a reduced risk of the disease. Some of the research has focused on the brew's weight-loss benefits. Being overweight or obese is a significant risk factor for diabetes.

Diabetes is a group of diseases characterized by high blood glucose levels, which occur when the body's ability to produce or use insulin is impaired. When we eat, our digestive system breaks down starches and sugars into glucose. Insulin, a hormone, helps cells absorb glucose. If glucose builds up in the blood it can lead to diabetes. Most people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes. Their body cannot produce enough insulin, or doesn't effectively use the insulin that is present.

The Link Between Diabetes and Drinking Coffee

Researchers suspected something other than caffeine, the primary ingredient in coffee, was affecting glucose metabolism in coffee drinkers. They believe this ingredient may be chlorogenic acid (CGA), a biologically active, plant-based compound. CGA slows the rate at which the intestines absorb glucose, preventing sugars from building up in the blood and raising blood glucose levels.

In addition to potentially slowing the intestinal absorption rate of glucose, CGA demonstrates antioxidant properties, which may further protect us against insulin resistance.

A recent study that garnered a lot of buzz found that green coffee bean extract (a supplement created from green unroasted coffee beans) may help individuals lose weight. Among the 16 participants in the study that were given the extract lost about 10 percent of their body weight—without a change in diet or level of physical activity.

It's important to note that this was a very small study (16 participants in total), and it was funded by the company that makes the supplement. Additionally, independent research needs to be conducted to confirm these results before using coffee bean supplements clinically.

Diabetes is a serious and growing condition. According to the American Diabetes Association, 25.8 million children and adults (8.3 percent of the population) have diabetes, although about 7 million are undiagnosed. Health experts predict the incidence of diabetes will increase to 366 million by 2030. Diabetes can lead to complications including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, blindness, kidney and nervous system diseases, and amputations.

A healthy diet and lifestyle management are key in reducing risk of type 2 diabetes. With coffee being the second most popular non-alcoholic beverage, there seems to be an inverse relationship between coffee consumption and type 2 diabetes. More research is needed to determine the role that coffee consumption may have in reducing the risk of diabetes.

Alison Massey, MS, RD, LDN, CDE reviewed this article.



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