MILAN, Italy – The Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee (Isic) is busting some common myths on the impact of coffee on digestion and the gastro-intestinal (GI) tract. Astrid Nehlig, Ph.D., Emeritus Research Director at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) and author of a recent review of 194 studies investigating coffee’s impact on the GI tract, commented:
“Coffee consumption remains a debated topic in relation to bowel or digestive problems. Yet there is a growing body of evidence which suggests that in moderation, coffee may have some useful effects, including an association with improved levels of microflora in the gut. As new data emerges and we become more conscious of how to manage our health proactively, it is encouraging to see that our morning coffee can contribute to it.”
Myth 1: Coffee affects digestion
Fact: Drinking coffee in moderation (3-5 cups per day2) helps to stimulate the digestive process, particularly the digestive hormone gastrin and hydrochloric acid present in gastric juice, both of which may help the breakdown of food in the stomach.
Additionally, coffee stimulates the secretion of cholecystokinin (CCK), a hormone that increases the production of bile, a fluid that breaks down fats taken into the body by the digestive tract.
Myth 2: Coffee increases bowel movements
Fact: Most food and drink stimulate movement in the large intestine, as part of the digestive process. Coffee may stimulate motility in the colon as much as cereals, 23% more than decaffeinated coffee or 60% more than a glass of water and it may be linked to a reduced risk of chronic constipation.
Myth 3: Avoid coffee on an empty stomach
Fact: There is no conclusive research to suggest that drinking coffee on an empty stomach can cause negative effects to the digestion process. However, there is growing evidence reporting that the beverage may offer a protective effect against some digestive disorders, including an association with a potential reduced risk of gallstones and pancreatitis, although more research is still needed.
Additionally, a separate meta-analysis found that research is indicating a possible protective effect of coffee against liver diseases, including hepatocellular carcinoma3– one of the most common types of liver cancer.
Myth 4: Coffee affects gut bacteria
Fact: In four reviewed studies, it was found that the polyphenols present in coffee can induce positive changes in the composition of the gut microbiota, mainly at the population level of Bifidobacteria, considered to be ‘good bacteria’. A healthy microflora can help to protect against infections, support the immune system and contribute to healthy digestion.
Myth 5: Drinking coffee dehydrates you
Fact: The main component in coffee is water. In fact, black coffee contains more than 95% water. Although there is significant interest in whether drinking coffee is associated with dehydration, research finds that drinking coffee in moderation actually contributes to overall fluid intake, and does not lead to dehydration or significant loss of body fluid.
The Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee (Isic) is a not-for-profit organization, established in 1990 and devoted to the study and disclosure of science related to “coffee and health.” Since 2003 ISIC also supports a pan-European education programme, working in partnership with national coffee associations in nine countries to convey current scientific knowledge on “coffee and health” to healthcare professionals.
Isic’s activities are focused on:
- The study of scientific matters related to “coffee and health”.
- The collection and evaluation of studies and scientific information about “coffee and health”.
- The support of independent scientific research on “coffee and health”,
- Active dissemination of balanced “coffee and health” scientific research and knowledge to a broad range of stakeholders.
Isic respects scientific research ethics in all its activities. ISIC’s communications are based on sound science and rely on scientific studies derived from peer-reviewed scientific journals and other publications. ISIC members are six of the major European coffee companies: illycaffè, Jacobs Douwe Egberts, Lavazza, Nestlé, Paulig and Tchibo.