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Coffee may ward off diabetes

4th May 2007

Coffee is seldom regarded as a health drink, but there is some evidence that it may help prevent type 2 diabetes and even some cancers.

Coffee

Experts attending the Experimental Biology 2007 meeting in the US capital heard a review of more than 400 studies of the effects of coffee presented by Lenore Arab of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

She said there was evidence that the drink may protect against certain types of colon cancer, together with rectal and liver cancer, possibly because it reduces the amount of cholesterol bile acid and sterol secretion in the colon.

This speeds up the passage of stool through the lower intestine, and cuts exposure to potential carcinogens in food, she told the meeting.

But she also cited evidence that coffee may increase the risk of leukaemia and stomach cancer, with the case for leukaemia being strongest.

The findings suggested that people who may be vulnerable to these risks - for example pregnant women and children - should limit coffee consumption, experts said.

Van Dam and colleagues are now conducting a clinical trial to get a clearer picture of the diabetes-preventing effects of coffee, which were first reported in 2002. Since then, he noted, there have been more than 20 studies on the topic.

He said they would also seek to identify which of the many biological compounds in the drink might have this effect.

The active ingredient responsible was unlikely to be caffeine itself, he said, as similar links to prevention of type 2 diabetes had been found in both caffeinated and decaffeinated varieties.

He said he suspected that chlorogenic acid, an antioxidant that slows the absorption of glucose in the intestines, might be the key ingredient affecting the development of diabetes.

A study carried out in 2004 involving 126,000 respondents over 12-18 years found that men who drank six cups of coffee a day reduced their chances of developing type 2 diabetes by half, and women who drank the same amount cut their risk by 30%.

An earlier study by Dutch researchers in 2002 of 17,000 men and women in the Netherlands discovered that there are compounds in coffee that aid the body's metabolism of sugar.

That study, published in The Lancet in November 2002, found that people who drank seven cups a day (or more) were 50% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

But experts have also warned that seven cups of coffee a day may cause other health problems.

 

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