Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research
Q: Is it true that coffee reduces risk of diabetes? If so, do other sources of caffeine offer the same benefit?
A: Quite a few population studies do now link coffee consumption to lower risk of type 2 diabetes, but that does not necessarily extend to other caffeine sources, especially not to soft drinks. Besides the diabetes link, multiple studies also connect coffee to fewer heart disease deaths and lower deaths from any cause. The consistency of these findings suggests that the link is real. However, observational studies like these don’t prove cause-and-effect. Still, most researchers seem to focus on natural phytochemicals in coffee, such as chlorogenic acid, rather than caffeine, as the more likely source of any protective effect of coffee. These compounds may act by promoting antioxidant activity in the body, reducing inflammation and improving insulin function. If coffee consumption is shown to improve insulin function, thus reducing elevated insulin levels, then we may see it linked with reduced risk of several cancers, too. In fact, the latest report from the American Institute for Cancer Research/World Cancer Research Fund concludes that coffee (regular and decaf) reduces risk of endometrial cancer, which is one of the cancers linked to insulin resistance. So enjoy your coffee, as long as you have not been advised by your doctor to avoid it for medical reasons. Don’t think of these potential benefits as support for caffeine-containing soft drinks, though. In fact, avoiding regular (sugar-sweetened) soft drink consumption is recommended to reduce risk of type 2 diabetes and to support the healthy weight that is so important to reduce risk of cancer.
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $96 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, www.aicr.org. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.