SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — What makes that morning whiff of coffee so alluring? It could be your nose telling you, “Drink up, it’s good for you.”
A University of California-Davis chemist found that the beguiling smell of freshly brewed coffee is caused in part by chemicals that form potent cancer-fighting antioxidants.
Individually, the chemicals are not potent. But when combined, as in brewed coffee, the activity increases and is comparable to antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables.
Takayuki Shibamoto said his preliminary study shows that chemicals in fresh-brewed coffee might be equal to the amount found in three oranges.
“That’s not a very scientific comparison, but it makes it easier to understand,” said Shibamoto, who presented his findings on Monday at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society.
Shibamoto cautioned that the chemicals detectable in coffee’s aroma escape rapidly into the air. “You have to drink it in about 20 minutes after it is brewed,” he said.
Shibamoto also warned that the research is preliminary and restricted to test-tube analysis. If he gets funding, he hopes to take a look at how animals might be affected by coffee.
Sara Risch, a Chicago-based consultant who has studied antioxidants and holds a doctorate in food science, called Shibamoto’s work an exciting start.
“It’s fascinating that he’s found a new category of compounds that can serve as antioxidants,” she said. “If there’s a caution, it’s that this is a laboratory study. The next step is to find out if there is truly any biological activity — if you take it into an animal system, do we still see the antioxidant activity?”
A UC-Davis chemist for 18 years, Shibamoto began studying antioxidants more than a decade ago. He decided to examine possible health benefits of coffee after being intrigued by the fact that many of the world’s cultures have been drinking it for ages.
“That got me started,” said Shibamoto, whose research was done with university funding. “So many other researchers have studied the toxicity of coffee — they gave the negative and undesirable effect. I began thinking there must be some beneficial effect we are getting from coffee.”