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Wednesday, September 22, 2010


By JC Leahy
Sigma Theta Tau's "100 Most Extraordinary Nurses Award"

Health Benefits of Coffee

I ran across a link entitled “25 Nutrition Tips” from Yahoo. To my surprise, the number-one nutrition tip was, “Drink a second cup of coffee.” I always thought coffee was bad for you, so I decided to do a little research.

There is a growing body of research about the link between Type II (Adult Onset) diabetes and drinking coffee. Every study concluded that drinking coffee is associated with a reduced incidence of Type II diabetes. The more coffee you drink, the lower your diabetes risk.

Various of these studies have been percolating since at least 2004. The most recent was published this year in the March 10 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. This is a Finnish study involving 16,000 Finns. They found that the more coffee one drinks, the lower the risk of developing Type II diabetes, and that the effect is more pronounced among women than men. Men who drank 3-4 cups of coffee per day had a 27% lower risk of diabetes, and for women, a 29% lower risk. Men who drank 7-9 cups per day had a 33% lower risk, and for women, 61%.

It is unknown why coffee helps prevent diabetes. Coffee contains 11mg of magnesium per 100g of dried coffee, and magnesium is thought to increase cellular sensitivity to insulin, thereby lowering blood sugar levels. Coffee also contains an antioxidant polyphenol chlorgenic acid, which inhibits the activity of an enzyme called glucose-6-phosphatase – which in turn would inhibit the increase of blood glucose levels. Antioxidants also may inhibit the absorption of glucose by the intestines. Additionally, caffeine is thought to stimulate the insulin producing cells of the pancreas.

Coffee is also thought to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and prostate cancer.

However, in other ways, drinking lots of coffee could be bad for you. For example, if you suffer from gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD), caffeine is counterproductive in that regard. If you suffer from high blood pressure or certain cardiac disease, caffeine may be harmful.

The bottom line to the various research studies is this: Daily coffee consumption can help reduce the risk of developing Type II diabetes. Within reason, the more you drink, the greater the effect. However, drinking coffee may not be advisable if you suffer from GERD, cardiac disease or high blood pressure. The research suggests that coffee drinking won’t help much if you don’t exercise and maintain a healthy diet.  That's common sense.  One more point, my experience is that dringing too much coffee on an habitual basis just makes you feel poorly. Furthrmore, drinking coffee in the afternoon or evening may inhibit your sleep.   All things considered, I think that up to 4 cups per morning  is reasonable and may provide a health benefit for those concerned about developing Type II diabetes, prostate cancer, or Alzheimer's disease.

Further Reading:

Coffee Prevents Diabetes?  Web MD

Can Coffee Prevent Diabetes? -- The Health Rules

New Study Links Coffee and Reduced Diabetes Risk -- CBS

Coffee Prevents Diabetes -- Medical Student Notes


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