By HFG expert Tracy Kelly, registered dietitian and clinical adviser at Diabetes UK
Coffee lovers will no doubt be rejoicing after being greeted with headlines such as ‘Drink more coffee to slash risk of diabetes’. But before you pour yourself a double espresso, let’s look more closely at the new study behind the news stories.
Scientists at Harvard School of Public Health looked at data on almost 128,000 healthcare professionals who, over two decades, were asked regularly about their diet. During that time 7,300 of them developed type 2 diabetes.
Those who boosted their coffee intake by more than a cup a day had an 11% lower risk of developing diabetes, while those who cut their consumption by more than a cup a day had a 17% higher risk of the disease. The researchers also found that people who drank three cups of coffee or more were 37% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who drank one cup or less. The researchers suggest that coffee could decrease glucose levels in the blood.
The trouble is, at the moment that is speculation. They haven’t proved it was the coffee itself that was responsible for the increase or decrease in risk.
Think about it this way. What if you at a high risk of developing type 2 diabetes and were trying to make some lifestyle changes, perhaps including a reduction in your coffee intake? You would still be at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the first place but you would be drinking less coffee.
You might also decide to reduce your coffee intake as you get older. We know that your risk of type 2 diabetes increases as you get older, so in this case your age would be the key influence on your risk, rather than your coffee intake.
On first glance at this study, it might seem that upping your coffee intake is an easy solution if you want to reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, but at the moment we simply can’t say it will make the slightest difference. Being overweight is the biggest risk factor for type 2 diabetes, accounting for more than 80% of the overall risk of developing the condition. The best way to reduce your risk therefore to maintain a healthy weight by eating a healthy, balanced diet low in fat, sugar and salt and high in fruit and vegetables and by being regularly physically active.Our advice would be to keep walking past the coffee shop and on to the gym, the hills or the park.