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Is coffee a functional food?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 March 2007

José G. Dórea*
Department of Nutrition, Faculdade de Ciências da Saúde, Universidade de Brasília, Brazil
Teresa Helena M. da Costa
Department of Nutrition, Faculdade de Ciências da Saúde, Universidade de Brasília, Brazil
Corresponding author: Professor José G. Dórea, fax +55 61 368 5853, email
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Definitions of functional food vary but are essentially based on foods' ability to enhance the quality of life, or physical and mental performance, of regular consumers. The worldwide use of coffee for social engagement, leisure, enhancement of work performance and well-being is widely recognised. Depending on the quantities consumed, it can affect the intake of some minerals (K, Mg, Mn, Cr), niacin and antioxidant substances. Epidemiological and experimental studies have shown positive effects of regular coffee-drinking on various aspects of health, such as psychoactive responses (alertness, mood change), neurological (infant hyperactivity, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases) and metabolic disorders (diabetes, gallstones, liver cirrhosis), and gonad and liver function. Despite this, most reviews do not mention coffee as fulfilling the criteria for a functional food. Unlike other functional foods that act on a defined population with a special effect, the wide use of coffee-drinking impacts a broad demographic (from children to the elderly), with a wide spectrum of health benefits. The present paper discusses coffee-drinking and health benefits that support the concept of coffee as a functional food.

Review article
Copyright © The Nutrition Society 2005


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