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H Zhang & J Speakman, 2024. The complexity of coffee and its impact on metabolism, Journal of Endocrinology

The complexity of coffee and its impact on metabolism

H Zhang and J Speakman
Journal of Endocrinology
June 24, 2024


Coffee is one of the three most consumed beverages in the world. It is made by first roasting coffee beans and then grinding and boiling or steeping the roasted beans in water (brewing). The process of roasting and brewing produces a complex mix of bioactive compounds which include methylxanthines (caffeine, theobromine, theophylline), diterpenes, chlorogenic acid, trigonelline, flavonoids and hydroxycinnamic acid. In the body these compounds may be metabolized to produce other bioactive compounds. For example, caffeine is primarily (80%) broken down by demethylation to produce paraxanthine. In the post ingestion period levels of paraxanthine may be higher than caffeine due to its slower elimination. Hence, while paraxanthine is not found in coffee itself, it has many of the same properties of caffeine and may be a major contributor to its metabolic effects. The impacts of caffeine and paraxanthine on metabolism relate to their impact on adenosine receptors (notably the A2A receptor). It has been known for almost 100 years that intake of coffee stimulates metabolism by between 5 and 20% for at least 3 hours. About half of the increase in metabolic rate after drinking coffee is due to caffeine and derivatives, but the source of the other half is unclear. There are large differences in the response to the same amount of coffee in different individuals, which may be related to caffeine clearance rates, effects of other unknown pathways, genetic polymorphism, age, sex and body composition.

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