Chris D. Meletis, N.D.
Coffee (Coffea arabica) is the second-largest worldwide commodity, overshadowed only by crude oil. Without question, coffee is the most frequently consumed functional food around the globe: In the United States alone there are 108 million coffee consumers who spend $9.2 billion in the retail sector and $8.7 billion in the foodservice sector each year.1 And these numbers represent only a fraction of the global population, large numbers of whom incorporate coffee as a staple in their cultural practices.
Coffee also has a rich medical history. The therapeutic benefits of coffee are now supported by a rapidly growing and significant level of scientific validation. The epidemiologic significance of the research in the field of coffee cannot be overstated, considering the prevalence of coffee ingestion among the peoples of the world.
Beyond the cultural and medical ramifications of coffee consumption, the fact is that coffee is big business with huge social, environmental, and economic impacts.The National Coffee Association reported that in 2000 54 percent of the U.S. adult population drank coffee.2
The average consumption per capita in the United States is approximately 4.4 kg annually at a cost of $164.71 per individual. Among U.S. coffee drinkers the average consumption is 3.1 cups of coffee per day.2
These statistics provide compelling motivation to investigate the consequences of such large-scale consumption of this beverage. What follows is are view of some of the most recent research into the active constituents and potential clinical applications of the functional food that is humbly known as the coffee bean.