How Coffee Can Reduce Risk of Diabetes


by Megan Day MS, RD, CDE, via Diabetes Care |

When you’re talking about coffee and reducing the potential type 2 diabetes risk, it’s important to note that we are talking about caffeinated coffee without any additions, like cream or sugar. While your corner coffee shop is selling a grande mocha latte, those types of drinks do not carry the same health benefits of plain, black coffee.

In this blog, we’ll discuss how caffeinated, black coffee affects your risk of developing type 2. In addition, we’ll talk about what you’re really drinking in your grande from the coffee shop and ways to make them healthier.

Coffee Consumption and Diabetes Risk

In a study published in the journal Diabetologia, increased consumption of coffee showed a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The risk reduction was rather significant.  Participants who increased their coffee consumption on average by one and a half cups per day showed an 11% reduction in risk. Participants who decreased their consumption of coffee by one cup or more showed a 17% higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes. It’s important to note this study evaluated thousands of people and followed them for four years.(1)

Individuals that had the highest rates of consumption (3 or more cups of coffee per day) had a 37% lower risk than the individuals that consumed the lowest amounts of coffee (less than one cup per day). (1) The study did mention that individuals with more complications such as cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or cancer may be those that also consume lower amounts of coffee. However, even when certain cases of comorbidities were excluded, the results were similar. (1)

The takeaway from this is if you drink coffee regularly, and you have clearance from your doctor, it may be beneficial to increase your coffee consumption by another cup. I wouldn’t recommend drinking it all at once, and avoid putting in extra sugar and cream.

Taming Down Extravagant Coffee Drinks

As mentioned earlier, coffee is a brewed drink that doesn’t have any additives. When we speak of increasing your coffee consumption, it should certainly be taken with this thought in mind: Many coffee shops specialize in extravagant, high-calorie, sugar and fat-laden monstrosities, and in order to reap the health benefits, coffee consumers should consider simplifying their drinks to make them plainer. Here are some quick tips to making you coffee healthier while still being able to enjoy it:

  • Try your coffee black. If you haven’t tried a fresh brewed coffee in its natural state, you should give it a try. Have you ever smelled the aroma of a fresh-brewed cup of java? In its plain, black state it’s robust and subtle. You may even prefer it that way.
  • A little sweetener. If black is just too bitter for your taste, you could try a little sweetener. Perhaps a sugar substitute can get the job done. Remember, artificial sweeteners should still be used sparingly, and they’re much sweeter than pure sugar, so you don’t need a lot.
  • Try some milk. Many people love cream in their coffee, but maybe you can get away with just a little skim milk. When you’re used to drinking your coffee with cream, it may take an adjustment period to scale back on using creamers. Start slowly and try reducing the amount of cream you put in your coffee. You could even try using one or two percent milk as an alternative. Eventually you can back it down to a little bit of skim milk and be perfectly content. If you like your coffee really light, ask for low fat milk, and cream on the side to top it off. This way you can still get a light coffee without too much extra fat and calories.

When Ordering Out

Every once in a while it’s okay to indulge in something extravagant, but as a general rule, try to lower the calories in your fancy coffee. In order to do so, use artificial sweeteners instead of sugar, reduce the amount of pumps you get in your brew, try low-fat or fat-free milk, top if off with cinnamon or cocoa, and remember to skip the whipped cream.


1. Shilpa Bhupathiraju et al. Changes in coffee intake and subsequent risk of type 2 diabetes: three large cohorts of US men and women. Diabetologia , April 2014