Does Coffee Safely Reduce Your Risk for Diabetes?
You might have heard about studies suggesting coffee consumption may decrease one’s risk for developing diabetes. “So nothing is wrong with my caffeine buzz! Bring on the coffee!” But not so fast! What is strange is that while both caffeinated and decaf coffee reduce the risk, both types have been demonstrated to elevate the blood glucose after a meal.1 Both types can raise cholesterol levels. Confusing, isn’t it?
Well, you may still think, “I’ll risk a cup of coffee with my doughnut or sausage for breakfast tomorrow”. Sound good? Maybe not! We know that consumption of saturated fat impairs the cell’s ability to respond to insulin. Consuming caffeine either from caffeinated coffee or a soda with the fatty meal actually aggravates this problem.2
No Real Help From Caffeine!
It is not the caffeine that is helpful because decaf coffee as well as caffeinated coffee may reduce one’s risk for diabetes according to a large meta-analysis.3 In one observational study of more than 28,000 postmenopausal women, researchers found that women who consumed decaffeinated coffee were more protected than if they drank regular coffee.4
So what ingredient in coffee reduces the risk for diabetes? Coffee comes from beans (botanically it’s a berry that looks like a bean) and any type of bean (or berry) is loaded with anti-oxidants, minerals, and phytochemicals which help to protect from chronic diseases including diabetes.
Coffee’s Powerful Weapons
At least three phytochemicals in coffee (chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, and trigonelline) have been shown to lower elevated blood sugar. Chlorogenic acid has been demonstrated to inhibit the production of extra glucose from the liver. This phytochemical also reduces the absorption of glucose from the intestines.5 A double win for a person who has prediabetes. Caffeic acid in diabetic animals improves the ability of the cells to take in glucose.
It is not necessary to drink coffee to get these phytochemicals because blueberries contain the antioxidant chlorogenic acid, and the phytoestrogen trigonelline is also found in peas, lentils, soybeans, and sunflower seeds.6 Caffeic acid is present in a variety of fruits, vegetables, and seasonings. Eat foods, not isolated phytochemicals, because most phytochemicals in foods work in synergy with other phytochemicals to give their health benefits.
Chicory Can Help
Chicory is one such component found in many types of coffee products. Manufacturers often add it to enhance coffee’s flavor. Chicory encourages a favorable bacterial environment in the gut and consequently may lower the risk for diabetes. A study using diabetic rodents showed that chicory decreased fasting blood sugar and lowered HbA1c, a test which shows how well your blood sugar is being controlled. The same study revealed that it also lowered triglycerides and cholesterol.7Chicory may help to protect the liver from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, commonly seen in obese and diabetic individuals.8
We should mention that chicoric acid is a known compound found in chicory that lowers elevated blood sugar. Chicoric acid also helps to neutralize the physical aspects of stress and exerts anti-depressant effects as well.9Fortunately, you do not have to drink coffee to get chicory! Many coffee substitutes have it as an ingredient. Just read the label.
Several caveats here: Chicory should not be used in individuals who have gallstones or excessive menstrual bleeding. Since chicory has mild laxative and diuretic effects, one should not use it if he has inflammatory bowel disease, has any problem with diarrhea, or is taking a diuretic. Wisdom dictates that if one uses any medication, he/she should first check with his pharmacist before using any herbs in medicinal amounts so as to avoid any possible herb-drug interactions. Pregnant women should avoid chicory as it could possibly cause a miscarriage.
Caffeine’s Adverse Effects on Blood Sugar
Mounting evidence suggests that caffeine disrupts glucose metabolism and may contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes and aggravate it. In adults with type 2 diabetes, studies have shown that the increase in blood glucose levels, which occurs after eating carbohydrates, is exaggerated if they also consumed a caffeinated beverage such as coffee.10
Young adults with hypertension who metabolize caffeine slowly, increase their risk of pre-diabetes. According to a recent study, those who drank more than three cups of coffee per day doubled their risk for having pre-diabetes.11
Researcher, Dr.Mos, concluded the study by saying: “The results of the HARVEST study suggest that in patients with hypertension, caffeinated coffee should be considered a dietary risk factor for pre-diabetes. This risk applies especially to slow caffeine metabolizers and to patients who are overweight or obese.”12 Caffeine lingers for a longer time in the system of those who carry the CYP1A2 gene.
The Bottom Line
Many individuals with pre-diabetes have high blood pressure or metabolic syndrome in which the sympathetic nervous system (fright-fight-flight) is already in overdrive. Unfortunately, caffeine reinforces the actions of the sympathetic nerves on the heart and the blood pressure. Not only that, caffeine increases three different circulating stress hormones.
Both caffeine and caffeinated coffee have been shown to acutely increase blood pressure, thereby posing a health threat to persons with a risk for cardiovascular disease.13 Furthermore, both types of coffee have been shown to raise LDL cholesterol and homocysteine. When even one of these is elevated (LDL cholesterol, blood pressure, or homocysteine) the risk for coronary artery disease increases. Since individuals with prediabetes and diabetes already have a significantly greater risk for heart and blood vessel diseases, we cannot advocate the use of coffee. There are better ways of reducing your risk for type 2 diabetes.
Decaffeinated coffee is more acidic than caffeinated brands. This is a problem for those who have either gastric reflux disorder, gastritis, or a peptic ulcer. Both types interfere with magnesium and zinc absorption and increase calcium excretion. Both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee increase the risk for glaucoma in susceptible individuals.14
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Disclaimer: The information in this article is educational and general in nature. Neither Wildwood Lifestyle Center, its entities, nor author intend this article as a substitute for medical diagnosis, counsel, or treatment by a qualified health professional.
- Greenberg JA.: Decaffeinated coffee and glucose metabolism in young men. Diabetes Care 2010; 33:278-280
- Beaudoin MS. An oral lipid challenge and acute intake of caffeinated coffee additively decrease glucose tolerance in healthy men. J Nutr 2011; 141:574-581
- Melville, N. Coffee, Even Decaf, Linked to Lower Type 2 Diabetes Risk. Medscape Medical News, January 28, 2014
- Pereira MA. Coffee consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus: an 11-year prospective study of 28 812 postmenopausal women. Arch Intern Med 2006; 166:1311-1316
- Hemmerle H. Chlorogenic acid and synthetic chlorogenic acid derivatives: novel inhibitors of hepatic glucose-6-phosphate translocase. J Med Chem. 1997 Jan 17; 40(2):137-45
- Furhman, Joel, Coffee and doughnuts: double-trouble for diabetes risk, April 29, 2011, www.diseaseproof.com › Diabetes
- Ghamarian A. Effect of chicory seed extract on glucose tolerance test (GTT) and metabolic profile in early and late stage diabetic rats.
Daru. 2012 Oct 15; 20(1):56
- Ziamajidi N, Amelioration by chicory seed extract of diabetes- and oleic acid-induced non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)/non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) via modulation of PPARα and SREBP-1. Food Chem Toxicol. 2013 Aug; 58:198-209
- Kour K. Chicoric acid regulates behavioral and biochemical alterations induced by chronic stress in experimental Swiss albino mice. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2011 Sep;99(3):342-8. doi: 10.1016/j.pbb.2011.05.008
- Mary Ann Liebert, Inc./Genetic Engineering News. “Caffeine and diabetes: Helpful or harmful?” ScienceDaily, 8 April 2011. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110407171728.htm
- Palatini, P. CYP1A2 genotype modifies the association between coffee intake and the risk of hypertension. Journal of Hypertension, 2009; 27 (8): 1594 DOI: 10.1097/HJH.0b013e32832ba850
- European Society of Cardiology. “Coffee increases prediabetes risk in susceptible young adults.” ScienceDaily, 2 September 2014. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140902093427.htm
- Greenburg, J. Coffee, diabetes, and weight control. Am J Clin Nutr October 2006 vol. 84 no. 4 682-693
- Fuhrman J. Does Coffee Has Health Benefits, https://www.drfuhrman.com/library/reverse diabetes.aspx