Why diabetes patients might want to swap sugary drinks for coffee

People with type 2 diabetes should swap sugary drinks for coffee, tea and water to reduce their risk of dying early, research suggests.

Making the simple swap has been linked to lower rates of early death due to cardiovascular disease and other causes, a study has found.

Experts, including from Harvard Medical School in the US, looked at data from 15,486 people – 74% of whom were women and of an average age of 61 – who had type 2 diabetes.

What they drank was assessed in a questionnaire and updated every two to four years.

During an average of 18.5 years of follow-up, 3,447 (22%) people suffered cardiovascular disease and 7,638 (49.3%) deaths were recorded.

The data suggested that people drinking the most sugary drinks were a fifth more likely to die early from any cause.

However, those drinking higher levels of coffee (up to six drinks a day) had a 26% reduced risk of early death, while the risk was 21% lower for a higher intake of tea, 23% for water and 12% for low-fat milk.

Compared with those who did not change their drinking habits after a diabetes diagnosis, those who drank more coffee, tea or water had around an 18% lower risk of dying early.

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Coffee associated with lower risk

When it came to cardiovascular disease specifically, sugary drinks were linked to a 25% higher risk of developing the condition and a 29% higher risk of dying from it.

Coffee and low-fat milk were associated with a lower risk.

The authors pointed out their findings are observational rather than proving cause and effect.

But they concluded that replacing sugary drinks, artificially-sweetened drinks, fruit juice or full-fat milk with coffee, tea, or plain water “was consistently associated with lower all-cause mortality”.

Over four million people diagnosed with diabetes

Diabetes UK has said 4.3 million people now have a diagnosis of diabetes in the UK, around 90% of which is type 2.

An extra 850,000 people are estimated to have the condition but do not yet know it, taking the overall UK-wide figure above five million cases.

Read more:
Weight loss can put type 2 in remission for ‘at least five years’

Type 2 diabetes is closely linked to obesity, with obese people far more likely to develop the condition than those who are a healthy weight.

The study was published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

In an accompanying editorial to the BMJ, Nita Forouhi from the University of Cambridge said the research adds to the evidence around drinks and type 2 diabetes.

But questions remain like the effect of adding sugar to coffee or tea, and the impact of other popular drinks like milkshakes, smoothies and hot chocolate, she said.