Caffeine-diabetes link still unresolved: study

Nov 26 (Reuters) - Sugary drinks are linked to a heightened

risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, but a large U.S. study that

confirmed this shed little light on whether caffeine - suggested

in past studies to have a link to sugar processing - helps or

hinders.

Among more than 100,000 men and women followed for 22 years,

those who drank sugar-sweetened drinks were as much as 23

percent more likely to develop diabetes than those who didn't,

but the risk was about the same whether the drinks contained

caffeine or not, according to the study that appeared in The

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

"We found that caffeine doesn't make a difference at all,"

said lead author Frank Hu of Harvard University. "Coffee can be

beneficial and the caffeine doesn't appear to have a positive or

negative effect on diabetes risk."

Numerous past studies have linked regular consumption of

soft drinks, both sugar- and artificially-sweetened, to an

increased risk of diabetes. Research over the past decade has

also suggested that caffeine temporarily prevents the body from

processing sugar efficiently - a problem that those who live

with diabetes deal with all the time.

That at least suggests that caffeine in conjunction with

sweetened drinks might raise diabetes risk even further.

However, other research has found a protective effect from

coffee and tea, suggesting caffeine does the opposite.

Hu and his coauthors wanted to know if people who regularly

drink sugary and caffeinated beverages might only be

exaggerating their risk of developing a disease that affects

nearly 26 million adults and children, or about 8 percent of the

U.S. population, according to the American Diabetes Association.

They examined the health habits of 75,000 women and 39,000

men involved in long-term health studies that began in the

mid-1980s.

Compared to people who didn't consume sugary drinks, the

likelihood of developing diabetes over the years for those who

did was higher by 13 percent for caffeinated sugary drinks and

11 percent for decaffeinated among women, and by 16 percent or

23 percent among men, respectively.

Caffeine-free artificially sweetened drinks were also linked

to a 6 percent increase in risk among women.

However, coffee drinkers showed slightly lower risks

compared to non-drinkers. The chances of developing diabetes

were 8 percent lower among women, whether they drank decaf or

regular coffee, and for men, 4 percent lower with regular coffee

and 7 percent lower with decaf.

Hu and his team have used this same dataset, which contains

the health habits of mostly white health professional, to

suggest that regular coffee drinking in general is tied to a

lower risk of diabetes.

But past studies, like the current one, have also found that

the risk falls even lower if adults drink decaffeinated coffee.

"Our understanding of the body's tolerance to caffeine is

not complete," said James Lane of Duke University, who has done

short-term studies that linked caffeine to a disruption of the

body's ability to process glucose.

The latest study suggests that people who currently drink

sugary beverages could substitute coffee or tea, though tea was

associated with fewer benefits, instead.

But other researchers said that more work is necessary to

untangle caffeinated coffee's complicated relationship with

diabetes risk, and that it is still far too early to advise

people to drink coffee if they don't do so already.

SOURCE: http://bit.ly/XWrcAm

(Reporting from New York by Kathleen Raven at Reuters Health;

editing by Elaine Lies)

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