“Would you like another cup of coffee?” the waiter asks. Most likely you’ll say “Yes” and then wonder if you’re drinking too much of “o’Joe” for your health. Today, over 110 million North Americans consume coffee. But how much is too much, and can it decrease the risk of Type 2 diabetes or slow down aging?
A recent report from Sydney, Australia, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, analyzed data from 500,000 people. Researchers report that those who drank three to four cups of decaffeinated coffee per day had a 33 percent decreased risk of type 2 diabetes, compared to non-coffee drinkers. The same amount of tea dropped the risk of Type 2 diabetes by 20 percent.
This isn’t the first study showing the possible benefits of coffee. Dr. Rob M. van Dam, of the Harvard School of Public health, analyzed the results of 15 studies of coffee and Type 2 diabetes involving 193,000 people in the U.S. and Europe. He reported that those who drank the most coffee, four to six cups daily, had a 28 percent lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes than those who drank the least coffee. All told there are now over 20 studies that show drinking coffee helps to decrease the risk of Type 2 diabetes.
Unfortunately, it’s going to take more than drinking a few more cups of o’Joe to stop the epidemic of diabetes. What’s added to the coffee also makes a difference. A Swedish study tracked insulin resistance, the ease at which insulin can enter cells to control the level of blood sugar when milk, cream or sugar was added to coffee. They discovered that insulin had a more difficult time entering cells when sugar was added, but milk and cream had no effect on the entry of insulin.
The hormone insulin is going to have an increasingly difficult time entering cells to control blood sugar levels. Studies show that only 35 percent of people drink coffee black. The recent specialty trend has added a huge number of calories to a cup of java. In some cases, what’s added to the coffee packs 500 calories! This is a good start if you want to become obese and increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes.
But if you can learn to ask for coffee black, what makes o’Joe so healthful? Coffee contains chlorogenic acid, an antioxidant that decreases the absorption of glucose from the blood. A cup of instant coffee also contains 59 micrograms of the trace element, boron, which reduces the amount of insulin required to maintain normal blood sugar levels.
Coffee also contains a heap of antioxidants that aid in removing free radicals, the end products of metabolism, which have been linked to the aging process. Researchers report that the average American drinks 1.64 cups of coffee daily which provides 1,299 mg of antioxidants. The same amount of tea supplies a mere 294 mg. Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants, but since most people eat them sparingly they provide only 75 mg each of antioxidants per day.
Is there any bad news about the use of coffee? It’s been debated for years whether coffee causes an increase in blood pressure. A Finnish study showed that after 13 years of use there was a 14 percent greater risk of hypertension. But a larger Harvard study could not find one shred of evidence that coffee caused hypertension.
Several years ago the Harvard School of Public Health reported an association between coffee consumption and pancreatic cancer. Other studies show an increase in stomach and urinary bladder cancers. On the other hand, researchers at the University of California report that coffee drinkers had less risk of developing colon and liver cancer.
Add it all up and there’s one conclusion. If coffee were a major health hazard we would have an epidemic of coffee-related disease, and this hasn’t happened.
So be grateful that in 1657 coffee was first imported into London, England. The glowing ad stated, “A very wholesome drink that helpeth indigestion, quickeneth the spirits, maketh the heart lightsome, is good against eye sores, coughs, head-ache and the King’s evil”.