Caffeine’s potential role in reducing obesity and diabetes

According to the FDA, healthy adults can drink four to five cups of coffee a day — that’s 400mg of caffeine daily — without harming their health.

I’m a strict two-cup-a-day gal myself.

But considering the results of two major studies, I’m seriously considering upping my caffeine game somewhat…

Taken together, these two studies (and previous research) suggest caffeine may be a helpful strategy for lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes and obesity.

And in a world where diabetes and obesity rates are skyrocketing, it sounds like something we need to know more about…

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Higher blood caffeine linked to less risk of obesity and diabetes

By approaching things from a new angle, three Swedish researchers have shown that higher levels of caffeine in the blood are associated with less body fat and a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

The scientists already knew that previous studies had suggested that drinking 3-5 daily cups of coffee is associated with a lower risk of the condition.

But they were also aware of two problematic issues with this research…

First, it consisted mainly of observational studies, where a causal relationship could not be established. Second, it was difficult to separate the specific effects of caffeine from those of other compounds contained in coffee.

To resolve this issue, they turned to a research technique known as Mendelian randomization, which uses the presence of certain genetic variants as evidence of a particular outcome — in this case, body fat and type 2 diabetes risk.

Using nearly 10,000 subjects from six long-term studies, their analysis determined that people with a genetic variant that is a predictor of high caffeine levels also had less body fat and a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

Per the researchers, caffeine is known to boost metabolism, increase fat burning and reduce appetite. A daily intake of 100 mg (one cup of coffee) has been estimated to increase energy expenditure by around 100 calories a day, which could certainly help lower the risk of developing obesity.

“Our Mendelian randomization finding suggests that caffeine might, at least in part, explain the inverse association between coffee consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes.”

Coffee reduces inflammation, another diabetes factor

Researchers from the University Center Rotterdam in the Netherlands analyzed a large set of data from two large, ongoing studies: the UK Biobank, and the Rotterdam Study in the Netherlands.

UK Biobank subjects included 502,536 people from the United Kingdom who were between 37 and 73 years old. Rotterdam Study subjects numbered 14,929.

The analysis indicated that drinking coffee boosts levels of the anti-inflammatory hormone adiponectin and the cytokine known as interleukin-13, which also controls inflammation.

At the same time, coffee consumption decreases levels of C-reactive protein and leptin, both of which promote inflammation.

Since type 2 diabetes is an inflammatory disease, this goes a long way to explaining why coffee lowers diabetes risk.

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A few words of caution

The researchers say their next step would be randomized controlled trials to assess the effectiveness of non-caloric caffeinated beverages on obesity and type 2 diabetes.

But a few words of caution.

First, if you decide to increase your caffeine consumption, ease into it and don’t go over that 3 to 5-cup range. Also, bear in mind that when these studies refer to a cup of coffee they mean 6 to 8 ounces. Your favorite oversized mug probably holds 16 ounces — so that’s technically 2 cups right there.

Secondly, these studies included calorie-free caffeinated drinks — so that means no milk or sugar in your coffee. I have a friend who enjoys caffeinated sparkling water. She drinks a brand called AHA that is only lightly flavored and contains no sugar or artificial sweeteners (not even stevia or monk fruit). But it contains half the caffeine as a cup of coffee.

Thirdly, caffeine is a stimulant. As a rule of thumb, it’s best to avoid it after 2 or 3 pm, so that it doesn’t prevent you from falling asleep.

Research shows that lack of sleep encourages food cravings that ultimately can lead to excess body weight, obesity and diabetes.

Don’t forget that caffeine can be an irritant, so if you have irritable bowel syndrome or an overactive bladder, you should probably check with your doctor before increasing your coffee consumption.

Most importantly, some people are overly sensitive to caffeine. If you’re one of them, you may experience some or all of the following:

  • Jitteriness or shakiness
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Diarrhea
  • Heart palpitations
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Urinary urgency (needing to rush to the bathroom to pee)

If these symptoms can’t be explained otherwise, and you’ve recently increased your coffee intake, you may need to back off.

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High blood caffeine level might curb amount of body fat and type 2 diabetes risk — Eureka Alert

Appraisal of the causal effect of plasma caffeine on adiposity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease: two sample mendelian randomisation study — BMJ Medicine

How coffee helps lower type 2 diabetes risk: New clues on mechanism — Medical News Today

C-reactive protein partially mediates the inverse association between coffee consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: The UK Biobank and the Rotterdam study cohorts — Clinical Nutrition

An Overview of Caffeine Sensitivity — Verywell Health

Joyce Hollman

By Joyce Hollman

Joyce Hollman is a writer based in Kennebunk, Maine, specializing in the medical/healthcare and natural/alternative health space. Health challenges of her own led Joyce on a journey to discover ways to feel better through organic living, utilizing natural health strategies. Now, practicing yoga and meditation, and working towards living in a chemical-free home, her experiences make her the perfect conduit to help others live and feel better naturally.