Coffee could be more beneficial for people with diabetes than previously thought, with new research suggesting it can lower the risk of eyesight problems by preventing damage to the retina.
A recent US study, published in the medical journal, Diabetologia, found that increasing coffee consumption by more than one cup a day can lower risk of type 2 diabetes by around 11%, while previous studies have linked a regular high caffeine intake with improved insulin sensitivity in people with the type 2 form of diabetes.
But researchers from Cornell University in New York and the Korea Institute of Science and Technology say the anti-diabetic benefits of coffee consumption may also include protection against retinal damage, which in people with diabetes is often the result of retinopathy.
According to the team, the key chemical behind this protective benefit is chlorogencic acid (CLA), a strong antioxidant.
For the joint study, the scientists created oxidative stress and free radicals in the eyes of mice by treating them with nitric oxide, leading to retinal degeneration. But in a group of mice pre-treated with CLA, there was no sign of retinal damage.
“Coffee is the most popular drink in the world, and we are understanding what benefit we can get from that,” study author Chang Y. Lee, professor of food science at Cornell, said.
He added that the next step of the research is to find out whether drinking coffee helps CLA to cross a membrane known as the blood-retinal barrier.
If coffee consumption proves to deliver CLA directly into the retina, it could one day enable scientists to develop new treatments (drinks or even eye drops) for preventing retinal damage and vision loss.
The findings are published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

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