Jury Still Out on Whether Coffee Induces Reflux
WebMD News Archive
Nov. 29, 1999 (Atlanta) -- Patients with heartburn are often advised by
their doctors not to drink coffee, but new research shows that a cup of java
has a minimal effect, if any, on acid reflux disease. The findings, published
in the November issue of the European Journal ofGastroenterology
& Hepatology, conflict with the results of previous studies.
The new research was conducted in the Netherlands and included seven men and
women between the ages of 20 and 61 with mild reflux disease and eight
participants without the disease. One group consumed coffee and the other drank
warm water at standard intervals over 24 hours as a special catheter monitored
each participant's esophageal activity. The process was then repeated a week
later with participants drinking the other beverage. During this time, standard
meals were provided and reflux medication was discontinued.
The investigators found that coffee had no significant effect on esophageal
activity except when consumed on an empty stomach by people with reflux
The study's lead researcher emphasizes another factor in reflux. "It's
important for people to know that meals consumed during our study induced much
more reflux than the coffee did," says Paul Boekema, MD, a
gastroenterologist at University Medical Center in Utrecht.
Boekema tells WebMD that one aspect of the study limits the interpretation
of the findings. "Physical activity was limited to offset the subjects' age
range, yet reflux can be induced just by bending over at the waist. Still, the
esophageal activity in the reflux group was very different from that of the
Boekema also says the study builds on previous research. "Our design
allowed us to control some additional variables. We ensured that each subject
consumed the same amount of coffee, over the same time, and that food intake
was identical." Aside from these differences, Boekema says conflicting
results may be due to the coffee itself. "Brands and brewing techniques
might actually be independent variables. In future studies, standardization
would yield more reliable data and facilitate better comparison."
In a previous study, German researchers showed that coffee consumed in large
quantities in a short time did induce reflux in coffee-sensitive patients. In a
subsequent study, regular coffee was shown to induce reflux in 16 people
without heartburn. With the same design, decaffeinated coffee was shown to
reduce reflux in subjects with heartburn.