Diabetes patients should swap sugary drinks for coffee ‘to cut risk of death’

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

A study, published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), found making a simple swap is linked to lower rates of early death due to cardiovascular disease and other causes.

Experts, including from Harvard medical school in the US, analysed data from 15,486 people – 74% of whom were women and of an average age of 61 – who had a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.

What they drank was then assessed through 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.

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 enjoyed around an 18% lower risk of dying early.

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.

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”.

Figures from Diabetes UK last week showed 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.

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.

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

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

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