Grabbing a cup of coffee in the morning, afternoon, and even at night is an American tradition. Eighty-five percent of Americans drink three cups of coffee daily, making the United States the world’s biggest coffee consumer, according to the National Coffee Association. All this drinking is helping us reap plenty of health benefits; in a recent study, researchers found that a few cups of java also improve the outlook for patients with diabetes.

The study, published in the International Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, found that Type 2 diabetic patients who drank coffee experienced long-term health benefits, including lower blood sugar and uric acid levels, which, together, helped to improve insulin sensitivity — the body’s response to insulin. For the study, 200 people drank three to four cups of filtered coffee made of roasted coffee beans and chicory each day for more than 16 years. Of the participants, 90 were diabetics, out of which 48 had been coffee drinkers.

Blood tests showed that non-diabetic patients experienced an average 5 percent decrease in blood sugar levels and 10 percent decrease in uric acid levels over the course of the 16 years. When it came to diabetic participants, however, the effects were more pronounced; they had lowered their average uric acid levels by nearly 15 percent, and blood sugar levels by 20 percent.

Studies have shown a strong link between high uric acid levels and insulin resistance, or the body’s inability to process insulin. By lowering levels of this chemical, as well as blood sugar (another risk factor when it’s high), coffee helped to improve insulin sensitivity, the researchers wrote.

“Coffee contains very many bioactive compounds that are thought to be responsible for the protective effect seen in some conditions,” Roger Cook, science manager from the Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee, told Medical Daily. One compound the researchers pinpointed was chlorogenic acid, a powerful antioxidant which is found in coffee. In one 2012 study, participants ended up with lower inflammation, insulin resistance, and a 29 percent lower diabetes risk after drinking four to five cups of coffee each day.

Despite the various health benefits coffee provides, experts caution that drinking too much caffeine can increase risk of anxiety, delusions, restlessness, muscle spasms, and osteoporosis. However, it would take drinking upwards of 1,000 milligrams of caffeine to develop these effects — about 10 cups. Drinking in moderation has been shown to be perfectly safe for the general population, Cook said. “The beneficial effect on mental performance is seen with around 75 to 85 milligrams,” he said.

Having a little more, about three to five cups (285 to 480 milligrams of caffeine), each day provides other benefits beyond improved mental performance and improved diabetes care. “Coffee has been suggested as being protective against some cancers, type 2 diabetes, degenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s, Gallstone disease, and Liver disease,” Cook said. So, what’s your excuse for skipping out on Joe in the morning?

Source: Bhakta G, Shantaram M, Nayak S. Beneficial Effects of Coffee and Maintenance of Uric Acid Levels. International Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. 2106.