Now that the word on the street is that coffee has been deemed a healthy, antioxidant-rich, life expectancy-lengthening beverage, most of us are excited to drink to our hearts’ content. But what about the average Joe who can’t enjoy a sip of joe without experiencing stomach upset, heartburn or acid indigestion?
Up to 40 million people in the United States alone either avoid coffee, or cannot drink as much as they’d like, due to stomach irritation. But there’s good news from an unlikely source, the 239th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society, which was held a couple of years ago. Even though it’s not “new” news, it’s certainly relevant for those feeling excluded from the delicious, recently-discovered, positive health offerings of coffee.
Research by Veronika Somoza, Ph.D., from the University of Vienna in Austria, and Thomas Hofmann, Ph.D., from the Technische Universität München in Germany was presented at the March 2010 meeting, indicating that espresso, French roast, and other dark-roasted coffee may be easier on the tummy because they contain a substance that tells the stomach to reduce production of acid.
To study the irritants in coffee, the scientists exposed cultures of human stomach cells to a variety of different coffee preparations, including regular, dark-roast, mild, decaffeinated and stomach-friendly. They identified several substances that appeared to trigger chemical changes associated with increased acid production. These substances include caffeine, catechols and other ingredients.
The scientists unexpectedly found that one of the coffee components, N-methylpyridium (NMP), seemed to block the ability of the stomach cells to produce hydrochloric acid and could provide a way to reduce or avoid stomach irritation. Since NMP is generated only upon roasting and not found in raw coffee beans, darker-roasted coffees contain higher amounts of this stomach-friendly coffee ingredient. Dark-roasted coffee can potentially contain up to twice as much of the ingredient as light-roasted coffees, but its levels can vary widely depending on the variety of coffee bean and the roasting method.
So, to enjoy coffee and avoid stomach upset, consider following the advice offered in this Turkish proverb, “Coffee should be black as hell, strong as death and as sweet as love.”