Coffee May Help Prevent Cavities

According to new research, coffee could actually help to prevent cavities. The finding is published in the February 27th issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a peer-reviewed publication of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society. 

Coffee made from roasted coffee beans contains antibacterial activities against certain microorganisms, such as Streptococcus mutans (S. mutans), a major cause of dental caries. Scientists performed laboratory tests that showed some coffee molecules actually prevent adhesion of S. mutans on tooth enamel. 

"All coffee solutions have high antiadhesive properties due to both naturally occurring and roasting-induced molecules," said Gabriella Gazzani, Ph.D., of the University of Pavia, the lead author of the study. Gazzani and her team at the University of Ancona analyzed samples of green and roasted arabica and robusta coffee from different countries. 

"All of the tested samples inhibited S. mutans adsorption and showed inhibitory activity ranging from 40.5 percent to 98.1 percent," according to the research article. However, the article adds, "all green [unroasted beans] coffee samples were significantly less active than the corresponding roasted coffees." 

They also studied caffeine and non-caffeine samples of ground and instant coffee. Instant coffee had a somewhat higher level of inhibitory activity against S. mutans. For caffeine and decaf, the results show that "caffeine is not involved in the antiadhesive properties of coffee solutions," the article says. 

The data suggests that trigonelline, a water-soluble compound in coffee that contributes to the aroma and flavor of the beverage, "may have the major responsibility for coffee's anti-adhesive activity." Although the findings seem to be encouraging, Gazzani and her colleagues are still wary. "In the absence of animal model data, caution is advised in the interpretation of the in vivo significance of our present results." 

"Nevertheless," they say, "we can hypothesize that due to both antibacterial and anti-adhesive activity, coffee might reduce S. mutans colonization of [the] tooth surface and might be effective in preventing S. mutans-induced tooth decay." 

Source: American Chemical Society
March 7, 2002 8:00 CDT

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