Consuming coffee on a daily basis may lower the risk of type 2 diabetes and improve the body’s glucose secretion and storage, says a new study appearing in the Journal of Natural Products.
Coffee contains an abundance of micronutrients and antioxidants, and researchers discovered in animal trials that one compound in particular – a bioactive substance called cafestol – helps the body regulate fasting glucose levels and boosts insulin sensitivity on par with current antidiabetic medications.
The study may help scientists create new types of medications that can prevent the onset of diabetes and help mitigate the damaging effects of the disease in people with the condition, they study authors report.
More than 30 million Americans, or nearly 10 percent of the population, have diabetes, a condition that occurs when the body’s insulin-production system breaks down, leading to dangerously high blood-sugar levels. Another 84 million people have prediabetes, a condition where blood sugar levels are higher than normal, resulting in an elevated risk of developing diabetes.
In the present study, researchers fed groups of mice several different types of food to ascertain the effect of cafestol on insulin activity. One group ate regular chow while other groups were fed various levels of cafestol over a 10-week period. After the trial, the researchers found that the group of mice that consumed the highest amounts of cafestol had a 42 percent improvement in insulin sensitivity.
Also, the cafestol groups had up to 30 percent healthier levels of fasting plasma glucose and saw improved glucose uptake in muscle cells, according to the study.
Previous research has linked coffee to diabetes prevention, but researchers weren’t clear on the underlying cause. Some speculated that caffeine was the root benefit, but later research found that both caffeinated and non-caffeinated types of coffee improved disease control. Now scientists appear to have pinpointed some of the compounds in coffee that help the body function properly.
The researchers speculate that other compounds may be at play too because coffee filters reduce the amount of cafestol dramatically – yet the benefits to human coffee drinkers remain. That fits in with other research on coffee benefits.
“Coffee is a complex beverage. It’s very difficult to pinpoint which component of coffee is responsible for the benefit,” said Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard University, in a recent article. “There are numerous bioactive compounds.”
The new study appears to have at least begun to crack the humble coffee bean, and the researchers believe practical benefits may result.
“Our results show that cafestol possesses antidiabetic properties [in mice],” they write in the Journal of Natural Products. “Consequently, cafestol may contribute to the reduced risk of developing [type 2 diabetes] in coffee consumers and has a potential role as an antidiabetic drug.”
Richard Scott is a health care reporter focusing on health policy and public health. Richard keeps tabs on national health trends from his Philadelphia location and is an active member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.