Researchers with ACS Journal of Natural Products report that this finding could also someday help them develop new medications to treat and better prevent type 2 diabetes.
Patients with type 2 diabetes become resistant to insulin, a hormone that helps turn glucose from food into energy. To overcome this resistance, the pancreas makes more insulin, but eventually, it just can't make enough. High blood glucose levels can cause health problems, such as blindness and nerve damage.
Several genetic and lifestyle risk factors have been linked to the development of type 2 diabetes, but drinking coffee has been shown to help prevent its onset. While caffeine was thought to be responsible, but studies have shown it has only a short-term effect on glucose and insulin, and decaffeinated coffee has the same effect as the regular version of the drink.
To learn which of coffee's many bioactive components are responsible for diabetes prevention, Sren Gregersen and colleagues tested the effects of different coffee compounds and their effects in rat cell lines.
- Cafestol and caffeic acid both increased insulin secretion when glucose was added.
- Cafestol increased glucose uptake in muscle cells, matching the levels of a currently prescribed antidiabetic drug.
The researchers concluded that cafestol's dual benefits make it a good candidate for the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes. However, because coffee filters eliminate much of the cafestol in drip coffee, it is likely that other compounds also contribute to these health benefits.