Can coffee prevent heartburn?
BY: Susan Male-Smith
It sounds counterintuitive, but some coffee roasts may actually trigger less acid production than others, according to new research. And if they do, it could actually help prevent heartburn, reports Veronika Somoza, professor and chair of molecular food science at the University of Vienna in Austria.
Somoza’s research sought to clarify whether low-acid coffees currently on the market are truly more heartburn-friendly than regular coffee. Unfortunately, they’re not. But researchers did discover a chemical in coffee -- N-methylpyridinium (NMP) -- which actually inhibits the secretion of stomach acid. Unlike caffeine and other chemicals that can trigger heartburn, NMP isn’t found naturally in coffee beans; rather, it’s generated only upon roasting. As a result, the darker the brew, the more NMP -- and the gentler on the tummy.
Clinical tests are now under way to confirm whether certain coffee roasts can actually prevent heartburn. Until then, “assume the darker the brew of decaf coffee, the kinder it is likely to be on your stomach,” says Somoza.
Decaf espresso, please?
Susan Male-Smith is a registered dietitian and freelance nutrition and health writer. She has written for Family Circle, Redbook, Child and American Health, and she is a former editor of the Environmental Nutrition newsletter and co-author of Foods for Better Health. Susan is a frequent contributor to Live Right Live Well.