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HEALTH – Which coffee type is easier on the stomach: light or dark roast?

Does coffee brew up irritation in your stomach or give you heartburn? If yes, you are not alone—studies say more than 40 million people in America are forced to stay off coffee because of these problems.

A research study conducted by scientists from Austria and Germany points to a simple solution: drink dark roast. The study states that dark roasted coffee is easier on the stomach than light and mild roasts because it produces an ingredient that prevents hydrochloric acid from building up in the stomach.

“This discovery is going to help a lot of people who suffer from coffee sensitivity,” say Veronika Somoza, Ph.D. from the University of Vienna in Austria, and Thomas Hofmann, Ph.D. from the Technische Universität MÜnchen in Germany, who conducted the study.

For the study, researchers took human cells that regulate acid secretion in the stomach and exposed them to different types of coffee: regular, dark-roast, mild, decaffeinated, and low-acid. The cells were found to react differently to different roasts–surprisingly, beans that were roasted longer resulted in lower amounts of acid!

Caffeine and two plant compounds are the key ingredients that stimulate the most acid production in coffee drinkers. But interestingly, scientists discovered another compound that had the opposite effect.

This compound, named N-methylpyridinium (NMP), was generated as the coffee beans were roasted. The longer they roasted, the higher the levels of NMP were formed. In fact, dark roast coffee was found to contain almost twice as much NMP as other roasts, depending on the variety of the coffee bean and the roasting method.

Researchers also gave the thumbs up to coffees being marketed as low-acid or easy on the stomach–manufacturers of these coffees usually treat raw coffee beans with steam or other chemical solvents, such as ethyl acetate and dichloromethane, prior to roasting, and the study found that those methods do in fact lower the levels of acid-producing compounds