Decaf may cut diabetes risk in women


Here's something to go with your morning cup of joe: A new, 11-year study has found yet another potential benefit for coffee.

Researchers said this week that women who drank six or more cups of decaffeinated coffee a day were 33 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, a disease that affects more than 18 million Americans.

But while the findings sound encouraging for avid coffee drinkers, the American Diabetes Association is warning against reading too much into the data.

"I think it's intriguing and it suggests [that] if you enjoy coffee - particularly decaffeinated coffee - then it's reasonable to drink it," said Dr. Robert Rizza, president of the American Diabetes Association and a professor at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Minnesota. "But I would do so in moderation."

The study, which followed other research this month showing that coffee my help prevent cirrhosis, was published Monday in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

It looked at diabetes risk among nearly 29,000 women in Iowa who were followed from 1986 to 1997. The women were being tracked for a larger project on cancer.

Epidemiologist Mark Pereira and his colleagues used questionnaires on the women's eating and drinking habits to look for an association between coffee consumption and diabetes. At first glance, Pereira said, the data indicated that drinking six or more cups of any coffee - decaf or regular - was linked to a 22 percent reduction in diabetes risk.

But when researchers teased out the caffeinated-vs.-decaffeinated drinkers, they found that the benefit was strong only among the women who drank six or more cups of decaf. And in that case, the risk reduction was even higher, at 33 percent.

Pereira, an associate professor of epidemiology and public health at the University of Minnesota, said coffee might play a role in how the body regulates sugar.

In type 2 diabetes, patients do not break down sugar properly. Diabetics run the risk of serious complications such as kidney failure, blindness and circulation problems that can lead to amputations.

Pereira said coffee is rich in antioxidants, which may protect the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin - the hormone that regulates sugar. In type 2 diabetes, patients either don't make enough insulin to keep sugar levels under control or their insulin is ineffective.

Robyn Shelton writes for the Orlando Sentinel.

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