Coffee is associated with brain and heart benefits, but new research shows it’s also great for your gut.
If you’re a coffee lover, you’ll be no stranger to the fact that a cup of Joe can get everything moving. But other than keeping things regular, there wasn’t a hugely well-known link between coffee and gut health.
That’s why a study by researchers at the nutrition app Zoe, headed up by Tim Spector from Kings College, decided to look at how coffee impacts digestion – and they found some interesting outcomes. Namely, coffee drinkers tended to have higher microbiome diversity than non-coffee drinkers. It was also dose-dependent, meaning the more coffee your drink, the more diverse your microbiome.
Why is coffee good for the gut?
According to Spector, who spoke about the research on his Instagram account, coffee drinkers were very likely to have a certain bacteria dubbed ‘Freddy’ in their gut. “[It is] one of the key 15 ‘good’ bugs that we’ve linked to healthier blood sugar and fat responses after eating,” he wrote. It’s also linked to improved insulin levels in the body.
The benefits also come from coffee’s polyphenols – micronutrients known for their antioxidant benefits – which “can help reduce the presence of harmful microbes, making room for ‘good’ bacteria and helping them flourish – rocket fuel for your microbes,” Spector adds.
Surprisingly, the benefits could also come from the fact that coffee contains fibre. The fibre in the coffee beans has been shown to pass into the drink, with 100ml of the drink containing between 0.46 and 0.75g of fibre.
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It may sound like a small dose, but Spector writes that “if you’re drinking the US average of 3.2 cups a day this could add up to as much as 5g of fibre per day”. Given that most adults only eat 18g of the recommended 30g of fibre a day, according to the NHS, an extra 5g in your coffee could make a huge difference.
Another study also found that the fibre from coffee ferments to produce beneficial short-chain fatty acids and increases the quantity of some bacteria by up to 60% within 24 hours of drinking.
The best type of coffee for your gut
Spector points out that the research has found that some types of coffee have different health benefits, including:
- Roast coffee is shown to have higher levels of polyphenols
- Adding milk could make polyphenols in coffee less bio-available
- All types of coffee have been shown to contain some fibre, but freeze-dried contains the most
- The health benefits are also associated with decaf
- Large scale studies into over 50,000 people found that drinking coffee of any kind – white, black, decaf or instant – decreases the risk of death, especially gut disease death
If you hate the taste of coffee or find coffee’s other effects (such as the caffeine or anxiety associations) too strong then don’t panic – you don’t need coffee to be healthy.
“If coffee doesn’t work for you then don’t drink it! Nutrition is always about far more than a single food or beverage. Coffee should not be the primary source of polyphenols or fibre in our diet. Increasing whole plant food diversity is the primary way to get the most beneficial fibres and polyphenols for our health,” reminds Spector.
But, for those who do love a mug, it looks like great news for your health.
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