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Sunday 16th June 2019

Coffee not linked to chronic illnesses

5th March 2012

Coffee drinkers are at no greater risk of heart disease or cancer than anyone else, a new study has shown.


Far from being more likely to end up with long-term health problems, caffeine fanatics are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

Researchers led by Anna Floegel of the German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbruecke said they had embarked on the study to try to resolve conflicting results from previous studies.

Some studies have linked coffee consumption to an increased incidence of cardiovascular disease and cancer, but Floegel said the studies looked at possible links with specific diseases, while hers had tried to build an overall picture of coffee's effects on human health.

According to National University of Singapore professor Rob van Dam, the study had shown that there is no need for healthy people to reduce their coffee intake purely to cut their risk of chronic diseases. However, van Dam stopped short of recommending that people who do not like the taste of coffee start drinking it.

Floegel's team, who published their results in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, looked at different diseases at the same time to estimate the overall health effect of coffee consumption.

At the start of the nine-year study, they collected information from more than 42,000 German adults with no chronic health problems, recording their coffee drinking, diet and exercise habits.

Participants were followed up every 2-3 years to see if they had developed any chronic diseases, with particular emphasis on heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer.

By the end of the study, they concluded that people who drank coffee had risk levels for these diseases that were similar to the risk levels of people who did not.

Out of a total of 8,689 non-coffee drinkers, 871 had developed a chronic disease by the end of the study. And of the 12,137 participants who drank more than four cups of caffeinated coffee a day, 1,124 had developed a chronic illness. Both results represent an incidence of around 10%.

Floegel said that it seemed coffee consumption did not do healthy adults any major harm, and may even confer health benefits.

The coffee drinkers were less likely to have developed type 2 diabetes than non-coffee drinkers, with an incidence of 3.2% and 3.6% respectively.

However, once factors influencing diabetes like weight and smoking were controlled for, the frequent coffee drinkers looked 23% less likely to get type 2 diabetes.

According to van Dam, the findings corroborate the results of earlier studies into the association of coffee with decreased risk for type 2 diabetes. The association does not necessarily add up to a causal, preventive effect, although animal studies have shown that some of the chemicals found in coffee do influence metabolism.

The benefits of coffee drinking may not be linked to caffeine, as decaffeinated coffee drinkers have also been shown to be at a lower risk of getting type 2 diabetes.

Floegel called for further research to elucidate the biochemical effects of coffee on the aetiology of type 2 diabetes.

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