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Coffee May Protect Against Colon Cancer

Morning cup of java carries potent antioxidant, researchers say

TUESDAY, Oct. 21, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- That morning cup of java might do more than just kickstart your day -- it could actually help protect you against colon cancer.

German researchers say they've found a highly active compound, called methylpyridinium, in coffee that may prevent colon cancer. In studies with animals, this potent antioxidant compound appears to boost the activity of phase II enzymes, which are believed to protect against colon cancer.

The study results appear in the Nov. 5 issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Scientists have suspected for years that coffee may offer some cancer protection. This is the first study that's identified a specific, highly active anticancer compound in coffee.

"Until human studies are done, no one knows exactly how much coffee is needed to have a protective effect against colon cancer," study co-leader Thomas Hofman, professor and head of the Institute for Food Chemistry at the University of Munster, says in a prepared statement.

"However, our studies suggest that drinking coffee may offer some protection, especially if it's strong," Hofman says.

He notes that espresso-type coffee contains about two to three times more of the anticancer compound than a medium roast coffee.

Methylpyridinium is found almost exclusively in coffee and coffee products. It's not present in raw coffee beans. It's formed during the roasting process from its chemical precursor, trigonellin.

The anticancer compound is present in both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee and is even found in instant coffee.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about antioxidants and cancer.

SOURCE: American Chemical Society, news release, October 2003
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