Coffee consumption may prove helpful for more than a quick pick-me-up. One of the compounds contained in coffee beans may help prevent retinal degeneration, study results published in the January 2014 issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry suggest, according to Chang Y. Lee, PhD, professor of food chemistry, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.
“If we treated [normal] tissue with chlorogenic acid or coffee extract and exposed it to the free radicals under the hypoxic conditions, the chlorogenic acid had a protective effect against these free radicals.” -Chang Y. Lee, PhD
Dr. Lee has been working with phytochemicals in antioxidant and anti-cancer activity for the last 20 years. “Our main concentration has to do with fruits and vegetables and herbs and includes teas, coffee, and other herbal products,” he said. One area of interest has been the phenolic compounds, he noted. “These phenolic compounds are common in most fruits and vegetables, as well as in beverages and herbal tea,” he said, adding that one of these compounds in particular, chlorogenic acid, has been of interest to the laboratory due to its antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and DNA protective effects. “Chlorogenic happens to be one of the major compounds in coffee—actually more than caffeine content,” Dr. Lee said. “Our interest was in chlorogenic acid in terms of eye health.” Holim Jang, a graduate student in Dr. Lee’s lab, and Sang Hoon Jung, PhD, Korea Institute of Science and Technology, Seoul, took the lead in studying this.