While coffee does not enjoy the healthiest of reputations, it has been consistently linked with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes in the scientific literature. Back in February, for instance, a German study was published which found that individuals drinking 4 or more cups of caffeinated coffee each day had a 23 per cent reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes over a 9-year period compared to those drinking less than one cup a day .
This paper is accompanied by an editorial which reviews some of the biochemistry which might explain this association . It points out that while caffeine inhibits the action of insulin (something that would be viewed as a risk factor for type 2 diabetes), other elements in coffee might have a protective effect here. As the editorial points out: “…phenolic compounds in coffee (chlorogenic acid, ferulic acid, p-coumaric acid), magnesium, trigonelline, and quinides have been associated with improved insulin sensitivity.”
Interestingly though, the study referred to above  did not find an association between decaffeinated coffee and diabetes risk. This might be for a range of reasons, including a loss of beneficial effects as a result of the decaffeination process. Or perhaps those who drink decaffeinated coffee feel are those who feel sensitive to caffeine and may be somehow metabolically weaker than those who tolerate it better. We just don’t know.
The study referred to above also looked at the association between coffee drinking and other disease processes including cardiovascular disease and cancer. No significant associations were found here.
Overall, this recent study adds further weight to the idea that coffee-drinking at moderate levels is safe and potentially beneficial to health.
1. Floegel A, et al. Coffee consumption and risk of chronic disease in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC)-Germany study. Am J Clin Nutr 2012;95:901-908
2. Lopez-Garcia E. Coffee consumption and risk of chronic diseases: changing our views. Am J Clin Nutr 7 March 2012 [epub ahead of print]