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Coming Soon: A Low-Heartburn Coffee?
Date:3/22/2010

Darker roasts have fewer irritants than lighter brews, researchers find

MONDAY, March 22 (HealthDay News) -- For millions of coffee-lovers with delicate stomachs, scientists may have found a way to enjoy an eye-opening cup of java without gastrointestinal discomfort.

European researchers studying stomach-irritating chemicals in coffee have unexpectedly found one that actually inhibits acid production in the stomach.

"The major import of our work is that it provides scientific evidence that you can produce a more stomach-friendly coffee by varying the processing technology," said study author Veronika Somoza, professor and chair of the Research Platform of Molecular Food Science at the University of Vienna, Austria.

The finding offers the promise that coffee makers can produce a blend that will be easier on the tummy, Somoza said.

The results were to be presented Sunday at the American Chemical Society's annual meeting in San Francisco.

The scientists looked at coffee's effect on human stomach cells using a variety of preparations, including dark-roast, regular roast, decaffeinated and stomach-friendly. Instead of one single element, they identified a mixture of compounds -- caffeine, catechols and N-alkanoly-5-hydroxytriptamides -- as the chemicals in coffee that promote the production of stomach acid.

But a fourth chemical, N-methylpyridinium, which is more common in dark roasts, such as espresso and French roast blends, was found to inhibit acid.

N-methylpyridinium is a product of the roasting process itself, resulting in dark roasts that are less likely than lighter ones to cause stomach irritation, according to the research.

Whether the findings will translate to human coffee drinkers remains unclear. The authors hope to conduct tests with human coffee drinkers this year.

Dr. Joseph Vinson, a professor of chemistry at the University of Scranton in P
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