Monday, December 5, 2011

Want to make coffee less acidic? Add cream to it

The table below is from a 2008 article by Ehlen and colleagues (), showing the amount of erosion caused by various types of beverages, when teeth were exposed to them for 25 h in vitro. Erosion depth is measured in microns. The third row shows the chance probabilities (i.e., P values) associated with the differences in erosion of enamel and root.


As you can see, even diet drinks may cause tooth erosion. That is not to say that if you drink a diet soda occasionally you will destroy your teeth, but regular drinking may be a problem. I discussed this study in a previous post (). After that post was published here some folks asked me about coffee, so I decided to do some research.

Unfortunately coffee by itself can also cause some erosion, primarily because of its acidity. Generally speaking, you want a liquid substance that you are interested in drinking to have a pH as close to 7 as possible, as this pH is neutral (). Tap and mineral water have a pH that is very close to 7. Black coffee seems to have a pH of about 4.8.

Also problematic are drinks containing fermentable carbohydrates, such as sucrose, fructose, glucose, and lactose. These are fermented by acid-producing bacteria. Interestingly, when fermentable carbohydrates are consumed as part of foods that require chewing, such as fruits, acidity is either neutralized or significantly reduced by large amounts of saliva being secreted as a result of the chewing process.

So what to do about coffee?

One possible solution is to add heavy cream to it. A small amount, such as a teaspoon, appears to bring the pH in a cup of coffee to a little over 6. Another advantage of heavy cream is that it has no fermentable carbohydrates; it has no carbohydrates, period. You will have to get over the habit of drinking sweet beverages, including sweet coffee, if you were unfortunate enough to develop that habit (like so many people living in cities today).

It is not easy to find reliable pH values for various foods. I guess dentistry researchers are more interested in ways of repairing damage already done, and there doesn't seem to be much funding available for preventive dentistry research. Some pH testing results from a University of Cincinnati college biology page were available at the time of this writing; they appeared to be reasonably reliable the last time I checked them ().

18 comments:

praguestepchild said...

There's also the old trick of adding eggshells to the grounds, the calcium carbonate reduces the acidity. We did this for quite a while, and it definitely mellows the coffee and helps mediocre coffees. It didn't occur to me that heavy cream could do the same.

FredT said...

Better to abandon coffee all together. It screws with adrenalin, which effects blood glucose.

SEO said...
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Anonymous said...

Would a splash of regular old milk (whole of course) have a similar (neutralizing) effect?

Chuck Currie said...

As Seth Roberts postulates, the two overriding rules of medical research are 1. First let them get sick, and 2. No cheap remedies.

Chuck Currie said...

P.S. I love cream in my coffee - at least a quarter cup or more. It's how my grandma taught us to drink it when we were wee little tikes.

Ned Kock said...

The research literature on the benefits of drinking coffee is mixed, leaning on the side of beneficial effects.

It certainly is not paleo, and absent from most HG cultures.

Ned Kock said...

Milk reduces acidity too, but it contains lactose, which feeds acid-producing bacteria.

Ned Kock said...

Spam comment above by SEO deleted.

David Isaak said...

It's too early in the day for me to think about this. I'm still drinking my first cup of coffee.

I was reading the new issue of Science News, however, and encountered something interesting--although completely off topic. Pythons apparently use increased levels of three common fatty acids to regulate the size of their internal organs (including heart). The interesting thing is that these faty acids also cause mouse heart muscle to grow (in an apparently healthy way):

http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/335620/title/Python%E2%80%99s_heart-restoring_elixir_works_in_mice

The "Not Enough Free Fatty Acids Theory of Heart Disease," anyone?

Erik said...

Do you think coconut milk (no additives) would accomplish the same thing?

Ned Kock said...

I would expect coconut milk to have an alkalinizing effect similar to milk. But, like milk, it also contains fermentable carbs that are metabolized by acid-producing bacteria in our mouths.

Ned Kock said...

Interesting article on “snake oil” David. I am frequently weary of extrapolating across species. For example, birds are generally healthier and longer-living than mammals, even though many live with blood glucose levels that only diabetic mammals would experience.

Ned Kock said...

Btw, cream from grass-fed cows tends to have a yellowish color. That is a good sign!

On the other hand, I hear that cream made from goat milk is always white, no matter what the goats eat.

David Isaak said...

Hi, Ned--

They are exposing mouse heart tissue to a set of (rather common) fatty acids secreted by snakes, and they are getting healthy heart tissue growth. (Across Class Reptilia to Class Mammalia, which is a pretty distant taxonomic spread--Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species.)

This seems to me to be primary data rather than extrapolation--that is, they did the experiment.

Or perhaps the extrapolation you're referring to isn't the snake chemicals/mouse heart experiment, but my suggestion that there might be a connection between these results and heart disease--i.e., making in inference from mouse to human?

I agree that many things don't translate from species to species. But a common biological mechanism that holds across two classes is well worth investigating, as the most probable explanation is persistance of a fundamental mechanism since the time of common ancestry--which goes back a ways for pythons and mice.

In any case, I think it would be ironic if a therapy for heart disease were based on two saturated fats (palmitic and myristic) with a dash of monunsaturated (palmitoleic).

online bookie said...

there is nothing richer than a coffee

Anonymous said...

Brewing cold coffee makes a far less acidic cup of coffee:

http://www.wikihow.com/Make-Low-Acid-Coffee

Eric Webb said...

What about whey protein powder? I like the eggshell idea. Ever test with a pH stick? I need to grab some. Scientific Method baby!

Eric
Astrophysics Idiot