Coffee is among the most popular beverages on Earth, widely consumed not only for its taste but the energizing caffeine it contains. In recent years, because of its popularity and improved understanding into how it affects the body, coffee has also become a common vehicle for other functional ingredients, from pre- and probiotics to protein and CBD.
A recent study conducted by researchers from England’s Northumbria University, in conjunction with PHMR Ltd. and PepsiCo, indicates an often-discarded part of the coffee plant may also be beneficial in boosting alertness, as well as improving mood: the coffee berry (Nutritional Neuroscience, 2021).
The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study examined 46 healthy men and women with an average age of 23 years old. Each participant was assigned to one of four groups: 1,100 mg coffee berry extract; 1,100 mg coffee berry extract plus 275 mg apple extract; 100 mg coffee berry extract plus 275 mg apple extract; or a placebo. A cognitive and mood assessment weas given before ingestion, as well as one, three and six hours after consumption. These trials were conducted on four separate occasions.
After analyzing the data, the researchers concluded “Analysis revealed a consistent pattern of alerting effects following 1,100 mg coffee berry extract.” Participants in the 1,100 mg group also reported increased vigor, as well as decreased fatigue and negative mood. The authors stated coffee berry’s caffeine content, while low (about one-fifth that of a cup of coffee), may have contributed to those observed effects. The researchers did note only a limited effect on cognitive function, with little difference between the high- and low-dose coffee berry extract groups.
“Polyphenols from coffee berry (chlorogenic acid) and apple (flavanol) have been shown to improve mood and increase cerebral blood flow in healthy humans,” the authors wrote. “In line with previous findings, 1,100 mg coffee berry engendered increased arousal.”
Food & Beverage Insider insights
Coffee is among the world’s most-consumed beverages, and recent innovations have only made the old standby more versatile and in-demand. The energizing boost of caffeine inherent in coffee continues to be a major motivator, with Matthew Barry of Euromonitor International writing, “High-caffeine products were already seen prior to the pandemic but have increased in intensity recently. The fast growth of highly caffeinated brand Death Wish Coffee Co. is perhaps the clearest example, but other coffee and tea brands are either dialing up caffeine levels or adding ingredients like guarana (Paullinia cupana) or ginseng (Panax ginseng) to provide an additional boost.” Barry also noted that, from 2015-2020, sales of decaffeinated or reduced caffeine coffee and tea fell by 3%.
In addition to caffeine, recent research also indicates coffee may possess other benefits. One recent study pointed to coffee, as well as tea, potentially lowering the risk of stroke and dementia (PLOS Medicine, 18(11): e1003830). Another study noted coffee’s potential to lower the risk of cardiac arrythmia (JAMA Intern Med. 2021;181:1185-1193).
With more than 60% of American adults consuming at least one cup of coffee every day, expect the popular beverage to continue to be researched and innovated, both as an ingredient unto itself and as a vehicle for others.