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Creating a Stomach-friendly Coffee

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 21 Feb 2011 | comments*Discuss
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Studies suggest that as many as two out of ten people have problems enjoying a cup of coffee because it irritates their tummy. Researchers have identified what they believe are the culprits of this irritation.

The hope is that we can make coffee without these offending substances, which will allow more people to enjoy the occasional cup. This would be welcome news to those who suffer from heartburn and an upset, painful tummy after drinking coffee.

Why is Coffee Irritating?

To understand how coffee can be irritating, it is important to also look at those coffees that are less irritating. Research has shown that espresso and other dark-roasted types of coffee seem to be less irritating because such coffee roasts have a specific substance that tells your tummy to make less acid. With millions of people apparently avoiding coffee because it upsets their stomach, this research helps us to get closer to making a stomach-friendly brew.

Taking Antacids to Reduce Stomach Irritation

Often, coffee drinkers will consume an antacid or they may drink a decaffeinated coffee with the aim of reducing stomach irritation. While some coffees on the market claim to be stomach-friendly, how successful they are is still very unclear. These manufacturers have various processing methods for the raw coffee beans, which are meant to reduce stomach irritants in the brew.

Reduction in Healthful Substances

An interesting consideration as well is that the process to reduce stomach irritants can also reduce the substances in coffee that are thought to be beneficial to health. Such beneficial substances are linked to protection from diseases such as diabetes. The processing can also affect the taste of the coffee, which may be to its detriment.

Testing Out Coffee

To find out more when it comes to stomach irritants from coffee, researchers exposed cultures of stomach cells to different coffee types. These included regular roast as well as dark roast, mild, decaffeinated and those already promoted as stomach-friendly.

They found a number of key substances that seem to be the catalyst that causes physical changes leading to an increase in stomach acid production. The substances are caffeine, catechols and several other ingredients. Rather than just one chemical causing stomach irritation, it was concluded that it’s really a combination of ingredients that are the issue.

One coffee component known as N-methylpyridium (NMP) appears to block stomach cells from making hydrochloric acid, meaning it could potentially prevent stomach irritation. This chemical occurs when coffee is roasted and is not present in the raw coffee beans. A darker roast will have more of this stomach-friendly chemical in comparison with a lighter roast. In fact, a darker roast could have up to two times more NMP.

Stomach-Friendly Coffee Roasts

The hope from this research is that scientists can look at making new, stomach-friendly coffee roasts that are less irritating for those who can’t drink normal coffee. Researchers are now testing out a number of different kinds of raw coffee beans and roasting procedures.

If successful, they will be able to raise NMP levels to make coffee much more stomach-friendly. It is frustrating for those who love coffee to have to avoid their enjoyable ‘cuppa’ but fortunately, it is likely this will soon no longer be the case.

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