Coffee is the world’s favorite beverage. Gym-junkies love their pre-workout shot for its reliability to provide a boost in focus and energy. However, a substantial amount of scientific research now supports an unlikely concept.

Coffee is Very Good for You

Insulin metabolism is the cornerstone of building a lean, muscular physique. This hormone promotes nutrient uptake into tissues, regulates key growth factors in muscle and influences the amount of body fat utilized for energy. A steadily increasing amount of studies now suggests that frequent consumption of coffee can actually improve insulin metabolism while offering a strong preventative effect against the development of type-2 (adult-onset) diabetes – an illness that shortens lifespan and affects an estimated 30 to 40% of the adult population in North America.

A recently published long-term study on a large population has confirmed the ability of caffeinated coffee to have a beneficial effect on insulin metabolism. This investigation was extensive, and the results were remarkably clear.

From 1984-1987 until 1992-1996, the investigators of this research followed up 910 adults aged 50 years or older that did not have diabetes. During the 8 year follow-up period the researchers keep in contact with the participants and recorded their coffee intake. Statistical regression models were utilized on the data to account for gender and age as well as lifestyle factors such as physical activity, body mass index, smoking, alcohol consumption, hypertension, and baseline fasting plasma glucose levels.

The resounding conclusion from these analyses was that coffee consumption reduces the risk for type-2 diabetes by a whopping 60%.

A few years ago, researchers in Amsterdam reported that heavy coffee drinkers are half as likely to develop diabetes as people who consume two cups or less a day. These findings set off a major controversy and motivated other researcher groups all over the world to try to replicate or refute these findings. Since this time, several other research institutes have completed and published data that strongly suggested regular coffee consumption can actually promote health by maintaining healthy insulin metabolism.

The information about coffee and caffeine providing an important health benefit is a revelation. Coffee and caffeine have always been linked to negative health connotations such as increase blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and stroke. However, none of these assumptions are supported directly by research studies.

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How much coffee do you need to consume to ensure a beneficial effect?

This is where things get a little confusing. For example, the Dutch scientists showed heavy coffee drinking (8 or more cups per day) improved insulin metabolism, where as another large study by scientists at Harvard concluded that four to six cups a day should do the trick. That is, significantly improve insulin metabolism and reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes. However, the study highlighted at the start of this article failed to find an association with a particular amount, but the average amount of coffee drank by the (coffee-consuming) participants was 2.8 cups per day.

Based on the all of this information, it appears as though drinking four or more cups of coffee a day is the closest we can get to a research-based recommendation. This amount is most likely to lower the risk of type 2-diabetes and promote healthy insulin function. Interestingly, these benefits appear to be largely due to caffeine. Decaf coffee only appears to be associated with a modest effect.

How does coffee improve insulin metabolism and fat loss?

Another study published late last year demonstrated that both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee consumption after a meal significantly slowed carbohydrate release into the bloodstream. This has a favorable effect on plasma glucose and insulin responses, as well as gastrointestinal hormone profiles, all of which promote more efficient metabolism of fat.

Therefore, a cup of coffee after a meal appears to be a great strategy that promotes a lower, steadier blood sugar response which is conducive to fat metabolism. A cup of coffee after your meals may help promote a hormonal response that makes fat loss easier.

Caffeine is coffee’s best known active ingredient, but it’s not the only one. Coffee contains substantial amounts of magnesium, niacin, potassium, polyphenols and other antioxidants such as tocopherol (vitamin E). Scientists still aren’t sure exactly how coffee provides its beneficial effect on the metabolism. It maybe coffee’s unique spectrum of vitamins, minerals, and polyphenols as well as the caffeine that provides the improvement in insulin metabolism. Regardless, it looks like the myth about coffee being bad for your health is, well and truly debunked, so drink up!

Sources: Diabetes Care Nov, 2007, American Journal of Epidemiology, 2006, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Sept 2004

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