Researchers Uncover a Feasible Biomarker for Coffee Consumption

A research team led by the Leibniz Institute for Food Systems Biology at the Technical University of Munich has validated the suitability of a specific roasted coffee compound, N-methylpyridinium, as a new, practical food biomarker. The study, published in the journal Beverages, aims to provide a reliable biomarker that can objectively distinguish between coffee drinkers and non-coffee drinkers.

Reliable biomarkers could be used to control food intake by using biological samples to objectively distinguish between coffee drinkers and non-coffee drinkers. The team, which includes nutritional physician Thomas Skurk and first author Beate Brandl from the ZIEL—Institute for Food & Health at the Technical University of Munich, has comprehensively validated the roast coffee compound N-methylpyridinium as one such biomarker candidate for its suitability.

The substance is chemically very stable and its absorption into the organism is concentration-dependent. It can be easily and reproducibly detected in various body fluids after coffee consumption, before leaving the body unchanged in urine within a few hours to days.

Roman Lang, head of the Biosystems Chemistry & Human Metabolism research group at the Leibniz Institute, states that N-methylpyridinium fulfills all the criteria that science demands of a biomarker to control food intake. Even if direct conclusions about the amount of coffee consumed due to various factors cannot be drawn, the roasting substance is still suitable as a marker because it allows us to distinguish objectively and practically between people who have drunk coffee and those who have not.

In the U.S. alone, 74% of the population over the age of 20 describe themselves as coffee drinkers, and in European countries, the calculated per capita consumption of roasted coffee in 2022 ranged from around 4 kilograms in Italy to 10 kilograms in Luxembourg.

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