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Coffee: Good for Your Mind and Gut

      A study appearing in the March 2009 issue of the International Journal of Food Microbiology found that coffee may increase the “good” bacteria in the gut called Bifidobacterium.

Researchers from the Nestlé Research Center in Lausanne, Switzerland recruited 16 healthy adult volunteers aged between 21 and 57 with no history of gastrointestinal problems.

For a period of three weeks prior to the study, participants were asked not to consume any yogurts, probiotics, fermented milk, or whole grain products.

For an additional three weeks, the volunteers drank three cups of instant coffee daily. The researchers took fecal samples at the beginning and end of the “coffee treatment” period.

The researchers found that following the 3 weeks of coffee consumption, the numbers of Bifidobacterium in the gut increased. The most dramatic increases were observed among volunteers with the lowest levels of the bacteria at the start of the study.

Bifodobacterium are one of the major genera of bacteria that make up the gut flora. They aid in digestion, are associated with a lower incidence of allergies and also prevent some forms of tumor growth.

The researchers note that further research is necessary in order to determine which specific components in coffee are responsible for the increase.

While the specific gut benefits of coffee have yet to be identified, a large body of previous research has highlighted other benefits derived from coffee.

A study published this year in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that drinking 3-5 cups of coffee per day during mid life was associated with a 65% decrease in dementia risk.

Additional studies have shown that people who drink coffee regularly are up to 80% less likely to develop Parkinson’s. Furthermore, coffee has also been shown to reduce the risk of diabetes, cirrhosis and oral cavities.
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