News Roundup: Daily Coffee Habit Linked to Less Risk of Premature Death; Study Tracks High Rates of Prediabetes

Coffee drinkers rejoice. There’s more good news about the effects of drinking a cup of java — even consuming as many as five cups or more a day can add years to your life, research shows.

A large new study has found that drinking coffee is linked to a reduced risk of dying from heart disease, diabetes and certain other causes. The cutoff — or the point at which coffee offers the most health benefits — seems to be about five cups a day, and even decaf coffee helps, according to a team at Harvard University’s school of public health, which helped produce the study.

Researchers tracked more than 200,000 doctors and nurses for up to 30 years. The participants had periodic physical examinations and answered lengthy questionnaires on diet and lifestyle factors, including their coffee habits and whether they smoke. The study was published in Circulation.

Compared with those who don’t drink coffee, nonsmokers who drank a cup of coffee a day had a 6 percent reduced risk of death, one to three cups an 8 percent reduced risk, three to five cups a 15 percent reduced risk, and more than five cups yielded a 12 percent reduced risk. There was little difference whether they drank caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee, researchers found. The association persisted after adjusting for age, alcohol consumption, BMI (body mass index) and other health or diet factors.

Coffee drinking was linked to a reduced risk of death from heart disease, stroke, diabetes, neurological diseases and suicide, although not from cancer. The positive effects of coffee consumption was not apparent in smokers, probably because the health hazards of smoking overwhelm the benefits derived from coffee drinking.

While the findings are encouraging, lead author Dr. Ming Ding, of the Harvard School of Public Health, told the New York Times: “Our study is observational, so it’s hard to know if the positive effect is causal or not.”

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For 45-year-olds: 50 Percent Risk of Prediabetes, Study Says.

At age 45, you have a 50 percent risk of developing prediabetes, according to a new major study published by a team of researchers from Erasmus University Medical Center in The Netherlands and the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston

The study involved 10,050 people who participated in the “Rotterdam Study.”  Participants were tracked from April of 1997 to January of 2012, with follow-up interviews. During that period, 1,148 participants were diagnosed with prediabetes, and 828 developed type 2 diabetes, with 237 beginning insulin treatments. The results were published in the November issue of The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, a medical journal.

From the study, here are the lifetime risks of developing different conditions related to elevated blood sugars at age 45:

  • Pre-diabetes: 49 percent.
  • Diabetes: 31 percent.
  • Insulin use: 9 percent.

With age, that lifetime risk of developing prediabetes decreased, but spiked for those who became overweight as measured by body mass index and waist size, the researchers said.

“Impaired glucose metabolism is a substantial burden on population health, and our findings emphasize the need for more effective prevention strategies, which should be implemented as soon in a person’s life as possible,” according to the study.

Preventive steps are also important for “lean” individuals because even if your weight is normal, there is a “substantial lifetime risk” of developing either prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, according to the study.

Blood glucose levels of 100-125 mg/dl (under 100 is considered normal) after an overnight, or eight-hour fasting period, may signal prediabetes. People with these results have impaired fasting glucose (IFG). The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 35 percent of U.S. adults aged 20 years or older have prediabetes. That  condition  puts you at greater risk for developing diabetes. For those with diabetes, low-blood sugar levels can cause immediate, life-threatening situations, and a long-term pattern of consistently high sugar levels places you at greater risk for heart disease, strokes and other serious conditions.

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