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Java junkies, go grab yourself another cup o' joe. And another.
Coffee looks to be a magic bean of protection against one of America's surging epidemics --- Type 2 diabetes.
In a Harvard medical study released Monday, long-term coffee drinkers cut their risk of developing the disease by 30 percent to 50 percent compared with those who didn't drink the bitter brew. Results confirm what was first reported last year by scientists in the Netherlands.
"This is good news for coffee drinkers, however it doesn't mean everyone should run out for a latte," said Frank Hu, lead researcher and a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. "We still don't know exactly why coffee is beneficial for diabetes, and more research is clearly needed."
Among the 19,000 previous studies on coffee worldwide, it has been shown to lower the risk of gallstones, colon cancer, cirrhosis of the liver and Parkinson's disease. But doctors usually steer pregnant women, children and heart patients away from coffee.
Researchers say they can't fully explain the long-term effect caffeine has on diabetes. It seems to reverse its immediate negative effect --- raising blood sugar levels.
"People seem to get used to the caffeine and develop tolerance to its increase on insulin," Hu said. "Coffee is actually a very complex beverage. It has numerous compounds and minerals."
The Harvard study appears in this week's Annals of Internal Medicine.
More than 125,000 healthy men and women free of diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease were followed from 1986 to 1998 and asked about their intake of regular and decaffeinated coffee in the Harvard analysis.
Those who drank six or more cups of caffeinated coffee daily experienced the greatest decline in diabetes risk --- men by more than 50 percent and women by nearly 30 percent.
For the more than 17 million Americans already suffering from Type 2 diabetes, the study means they shouldn't be afraid to drink coffee, Hu said, as long as they hold the sugar.
About 110 million Americans drink coffee every day --- 9 billion gallons of the brew a year. That's enough to fill the Empire State Building every other week.
Good news or bad, committed coffee drinkers don't care either way. They know what they need and when they need it.
"I'd probably take hostages without it," said Lary Blodgett, 50, enjoying a good old regular cup of joe Sunday evening at the San Francisco Coffee Roasting Co. near Ponce de Leon Avenue. "Anyway, studies are like opinions. Next week, they'll change."
Copyright 2004 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution