Giving into your caffeine craving could be good for your gut
A new scientific review suggests that coffee stimulates the digestive process and increases the number of good bacteria in the gut.
The review, published in Nutrients and supported by The Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee (ISIC), finds that coffee has a stimulating effect on some digestive processes, and a possible protective effect against common digestive issues such as gallstones and certain liver diseases.
The review of 194 research publications suggests that moderate coffee consumption (defined by the European Food Safety Authority as three to five cups per day) was not found to generate harmful effects on the various organs of the digestive tract.
Two areas of particular interest emerging from the research are the association between coffee and a reduced risk of gallstones and the evidence linking coffee consumption with a reduced risk of pancreatitis, although more research is still needed.
In the study, coffee was found to stimulate production of the digestive hormone gastrin, and hydrochloric acid; both of which help break down food in the stomach. It was found that coffee also stimulates the secretion of cholecystokinin; a hormone that increases the production of bile, also involved in digestion.
In addition to this, coffee is associated with colon motility – the process by which food travels through the digestive tract. The data reviewed suggests that coffee may stimulate motility in the colon as much as cereals, 23 percent more than decaffeinated coffee or 60 percent more than a glass of water, and it may be linked to a reduced risk of chronic constipation.
The latest research also strongly supports the protective effect of coffee against liver diseases, including hepatocellular carcinoma – one of the most common types of liver cancer.
The new review, titled ‘Effects of coffee on the gastro-intestinal tract: a narrative review and literature update’ was conducted by Astrid Nehlig, Ph.D., Emeritus Research Director at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM).
“Contrary to some assumptions, coffee consumption is not overall linked to bowel or digestive problems. In some instances, coffee has a protective effect against common digestive complaints such as constipation. Emerging data also indicate there may be an association with improved levels of gut bacterial groups such as Bifidobacteria which have recognised beneficial effects. Although additional data will be needed to understand coffee’s effects throughout the digestive tract, this is an extremely encouraging place to begin”, said Nehlig.
It looks like a cup of coffee (or three) a day may be beneficial in more ways than one, although further research is needed.