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
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
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.
(Reporting from New York by Kathleen Raven at Reuters Health;
editing by Elaine Lies)