British Journal of Nutrition

Review article

Is coffee a functional food?

José G. Dóreaa1 c1 and Teresa Helena M. da Costaa1

a1 Department of Nutrition, Faculdade de Ciências da Saúde, Universidade de Brasília, Brazil


Definitions of functional food vary but are essentially based on foods' ability to enhance the quality of life, or physical and mental performance, of regular consumers. The worldwide use of coffee for social engagement, leisure, enhancement of work performance and well-being is widely recognised. Depending on the quantities consumed, it can affect the intake of some minerals (K, Mg, Mn, Cr), niacin and antioxidant substances. Epidemiological and experimental studies have shown positive effects of regular coffee-drinking on various aspects of health, such as psychoactive responses (alertness, mood change), neurological (infant hyperactivity, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases) and metabolic disorders (diabetes, gallstones, liver cirrhosis), and gonad and liver function. Despite this, most reviews do not mention coffee as fulfilling the criteria for a functional food. Unlike other functional foods that act on a defined population with a special effect, the wide use of coffee-drinking impacts a broad demographic (from children to the elderly), with a wide spectrum of health benefits. The present paper discusses coffee-drinking and health benefits that support the concept of coffee as a functional food.

(Received June 09 2004)

(Revised October 30 2004)

(Accepted November 09 2004)


c1 Corresponding author: Professor José G. Dórea, fax +55 61 368 5853, email