November 2023

Diabetes and Obesity: What’s the Buzz About Coffee

Coffee is one of the most consumed beverages worldwide. Americans typically drink a little over 3 cups every day. Whether it benefits or harms health has been a point of confusion over the years. Questions about how it affects diabetes and obesity are generating a lot of buzz in recent headlines. Here’s the latest.

Most of the evidence on its use for diabetes prevention is positive. Drinking the typical amount of coffee each day doesn’t seem to be harmful and it might actually offer some benefits. In the US, drinking 6 or more cups of coffee daily is linked with a 29% lower risk of developing diabetes in females and a 54% lower risk in males. These effects seem to be dose-dependent – and a recent study linking higher caffeine blood levels to a reduced risk for diabetes supports this further. But this isn’t a green light to load up on an unlimited amount of coffee – drinking more than 4 cups daily can lead to side effects like irregular heartbeat and sleeping problems.

Coffee might also have some benefits for people with existing diabetes. Drinking up to 4 cups daily has been linked with a reduced risk of death in people with type 2 diabetes. And drinking any amount of coffee has been linked with a reduced risk of kidney function decline. But remind patients to monitor their blood sugar closely when drinking coffee – caffeine can cause both increases and decreases in blood sugar. Additionally, tell patients to steer clear of coffee drinks with added sugars.

The data on obesity isn’t as clear. There’s been some recent buzz that coffee can lower body fat – many of these headlines are based on a study linking higher caffeine blood levels to lower body mass index (BMI) and lower whole body fat mass. But this doesn’t mean that drinking more coffee helps with weight loss – the available clinical research on coffee for obesity remains conflicting.

Overall, there’s mounting evidence that drinking coffee in moderation isn’t harmful. But tell patients to stick to no more than 4 cups of regular coffee daily. This generally provides 400 mg of caffeine and is likely safe for most people.

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