Magic Beans

Published January 1, 2003

The coffee bean may offer the best protection against one of America’s surging epidemics–Type 2 diabetes.

A Harvard medical study established dedicated coffee drinkers cut the risk of developing the disease by 30 percent to 50 percent compared with those who didn’t drink the java brew.

More than 125,000 healthy men and women were studied from 1986 to 1998 and asked about their intake of regular and decaffeinated coffee. Those who drank six or more cups of caffeinated coffee daily experienced the greatest decline in diabetes risk–men by more than 50 percent and women by nearly 30 percent. The results confirm a study first reported in 2002 by scientists in the Netherlands.

Results from 19,000 previous worldwide studies on coffee beans indicate a lower risk of gallstones, colon cancer, cirrhosis of the liver, and Parkinson’s disease.

Doctors tell pregnant women, children, and heart patients to stay away from coffee.

While good news for coffee drinkers, it does not mean everyone should order up a super-sized Starbucks. Researchers say they can’t fully explain the long-term effect caffeine has on diabetes. They say it seems to reverse the disease’s immediate negative effect–raising blood sugar levels.

For the more than 17 million Americans already suffering from Type 2 diabetes, the study means you shouldn’t be afraid to drink coffee … but hold the sugar.

IT’S YOUR HEALTH is written by Conrad Meier, senior fellow in health policy at The Heartland Institute. This program is produced as a public service by Radio America. Meier passed away unexpectedly on March 18, 2005.