Coffee fights common type of diabetes, research says

Thomas Rooke

Coffee drinkers of Northwestern, it’s time to rejoice.

Recent research from Harvard University indicates that drinking more coffee can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.

The study’s results showed that men who consume six or more cups of caffeinated coffee each day reduce the risk of acquiring type 2 diabetes by more than 50 percent, while women who consume coffee at the same level reduce the risk by nearly 30 percent.

Diabetes occurs when insulin — the hormone responsible for the breakdown of glucose — is produced at an insufficient level. Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include a lack of exercise, an unbalanced diet and a family history of diabetes. Six percent of the population suffers from diabetes, and 90 percent of those cases are type 2, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Dr. Frank Hu, a Harvard professor who worked on the study, said the research fills a scientific void in understanding the relationship between caffeine, coffee and diabetes.

“We don’t know much about coffee,” Hu said. “We know that in the short term, caffeinated coffee increases energy expenditure and glucose breakdown, but very little research has been done on coffee’s long-term effects.”

The study hopefully will give coffee’s negative image a lift, he said.

“Coffee for some reason does not have a very good image, something which is not grounded on scientific evidence,” Hu said. “Our study’s results should make (coffee drinkers) feel better about drinking coffee.”

The study tracked 120,000 coffee drinkers previously free of diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease periodically over the past two decades.

Coffee has often been linked to increased risk of heart failure, acid reflux disease, dependency on caffeine and an increased risk of developing ulcers. The jury is still out on whether these risks are real, but most doctors agree that drinking too much coffee during pregnancy is the only verifiable risk.

Other studies have concluded that ingredients in coffee other than caffeine could lead to an increased risk of high blood pressure.

Although the Harvard study suggests drinking coffee can prevent type 2 diabetes, some patrons of local coffee shops in Evanston were not convinced.

Brad Reichek, a graduate student in the French department who does not drink coffee, said the drink’s deterrence of diabetes would not lure him from his current drink of choice: tea.

“The only reason I don’t drink coffee is for other health concerns,” Reichek said. “It’s tough on the system, especially in context of the wonderful stress of grad school. Tea is becoming the preferred drink, because it isn’t as hard on the system.”

Despite his family’s history of type 2 diabetes, Joey Weiner, who works at the downtown Starbucks Coffee, 1724 Sherman Ave., said his bad experiences with coffee outweighed the possible benefit of consuming more than his usual two cups a day.

“I’ve had a lot of bad experiences with drinking too much coffee,” Weiner said. “I’ve been on the road after drinking too much coffee and been pulled over. It’s something you hear about and wouldn’t think it’s true, but it is.”

But for Weinberg sophomore Will Lambert, the study is “just another reason to keep drinking coffee.”