A new study led by researchers at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, MA, has found that increasing coffee consumption may reduce type 2 diabetes.

Coffee has been linked to a variety of health benefits recently.

Earlier this month, Medical News Today reported on a study in the journal Hepatology that - through analyzing data from a health survey among Chinese people living in Singapore - found that coffee intake was linked with a lower risk of death from cirrhosis.

Late last year, an Italian study also suggested that coffee has beneficial properties for the human liver, finding a link between coffee consumption and a decreased risk of liver cancer.

A report published by the American Institute for Cancer Research also suggested that engaging in physical activity, eating healthfully, and drinking coffee - whether caffeinated or decaffeinated forms of the beverage - all reduce risks of womb cancer.

A wealth of further information on the subject can be found in our Knowledge Center article, "What are the health benefits of coffee?"

The new study, which is published in the journal Diabetologia, investigates to what extent type 2 diabetes might be affected by coffee consumption.

Analysis draws data from three large studies, covering a 20-year period

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"Coffee is only one of many factors that influence diabetes risk," the researchers remind.

The Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers gathered data from three studies. The participants included:

  • 48,464 women in the Brigham and Women's Hospital-based Nurses' Health Study (1986-2006)
  • 47,510 women in the Nurses' Health Study II (1991-2007)
  • 27,759 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (1986-2006).

In these studies, the diets of the participants were evaluated using questionnaires every 4 years, with participants who reported having type 2 diabetes filling out additional questionnaires. In total, 7,269 study participants had type 2 diabetes.

The researchers found that the participants who increased their coffee intake by more than one cup a day (on average, an increase of 1.69 cups per day) over a 4-year period had an 11% lower type 2 diabetes risk over the subsequent 4 years, compared with people who did not change their intake.

Also, people who lowered their daily consumption by more than one cup of coffee (on average, a decrease of two cups per day) showed a 17% higher risk for type 2 diabetes.

In the study, a "cup of coffee" was defined as being 8 oz and either black or with a small amount of milk or sugar.

"Our findings confirm those of previous studies that showed that higher coffee consumption was associated with lower type 2 diabetes risk," says Shilpa Bhupathiraju, lead author and research fellow in the Department of Nutrition at HSPH. "Most importantly, they provide new evidence that changes in coffee consumption habit can affect type 2 diabetes risk in a relatively short period of time."

"These findings further demonstrate that, for most people, coffee may have health benefits," adds Frank Hu, senior author and professor of nutrition and epidemiology at HSPH. "But coffee is only one of many factors that influence diabetes risk. More importantly, individuals should watch their weight and be physically active."