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What is chlorogenic acid?

The chlorogenic acid (CGA) is a phytochemical compound found in foods such as coffee beans, coffee drinks, mate tea. Although the term is commonly used to describe a single compound, there are a dozen isomers of this substance, each with different sensory characteristics.

Its name evokes chlorine, but it is not related. It arises from the first observations for its characterization: ferric chloride was added to green coffee extracts there. The chlorogenic acids in coffee are polyphenolic compounds, formed by the esterification of cinnamic acids – such as caffeic, ferulic and p-coumaric acids – with quinic acid.

The presence of CGA is associated with the bitter and metallic taste in some coffees. The data obtained from in vivo and in vitro experiments show that CGA exhibits mainly antioxidant and anticancer activities. Its anti-inflammatory, analgesic and antipyretic potential has been under evaluation.

Chlorogenic acid properties

Chlorogenic acid
Mate is rich in chlorogenic acid

A number of health benefits have been associated with consuming CGA in recent years. Among these, the following stand out:

– Prevention of the development of cataracts as a consequence of its potential antidiabetic effect. This aspect has been pointed out by results of studies in laboratory animals.

– Anti-obesity role due to its ability to inhibit the accumulation of fat and body weight . This has not yet been scientifically proven.

– Reduction of the relative risk of cardiovascular disease and improvement in human vasoreactivity.

– Antihypertensive action in rats and humans.

– Reduction of the risk of producing gallstones.

– Decrease in the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease.

– Potential antibacterial activity.

In laboratory tests, chlorogenic acids have been shown to have possible antioxidant effects, preventing cell damage. However, the scientific evidence of the preventive effects against chronic non-communicable diseases remains weak, since AGCs break down very quickly in the body. 

In general, mild to moderate improvements in glucose metabolism, weight control, heart health, and mental health have been reported with increasing ingested doses of CGA.

Polyphenolic compounds are numerous and abundant in the plant kingdom and are often present in health-promoting foods. Epidemiological studies report that the consumption of foods rich in polyphenols reduces the incidence of cancer, coronary heart disease and inflammation.

Although scientists discovered AGCs in the 1930s, the research is relatively recent. This is evidenced by verifying that in many aspects there is still no precise and scientific answer on the metabolic activity of these substances.

CGA is one of the most abundant polyphenolic compounds in the human diet. Its production in plants responds to several factors, including changes in environmental conditions such as stress and the presence of pests.

This probably explains why the CGA concentration is almost double in robust coffee, which grows under more difficult conditions, relative to the CGA content in arabica coffee.

Foods that have chlorogenic acid

Green coffee

Despite the wide distribution of some AGCs in the plant kingdom, green coffee remains the main recognized source to date. Its content equals and is sometimes surpassed by the green leaves of the mate ( Illex paraguayensis ).

Green coffee beans normally contain between 6 and 7% of the CGA, and in roasted coffee beans this value is reduced, since roasting transforms chlorogenic acid into other molecules.

The latter could explain why drinking a cup of coffee does not produce the same weight loss results as taking green coffee supplements.

Tea

Camellia sinensis

Tea ( Camellia sinensis) is another important source of AGC; however, the amount of green tea that must be consumed to obtain health benefits is approximately 10 cups per day.

Jamaica flower

Hibiscus sabdariffa

Chlorogenic acid has also been found in the leaves of Hibiscus sabdariffa (a plant popularly known as Jamaica flower), as well as in the pulp of eggplant, peaches, and plums.

Some isomers of CGA have been found in potatoes. Apples contain a variety of polyphenols, which include CGAs.

Side effects

CGAs have been reported to have a laxative effect, and may even cause stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Some sensitive people have had allergic reactions to green coffee beans.

CGAs share some similar reactions to caffeine, but with less potency . These include stimulant effects, anxiety, nervousness, rapid heart and breathing rate, and headache, among others. If a person is sensitive to caffeine, they should take green coffee bean extract with caution.

CGAs can contribute to the decrease in the absorption of carbohydrates ingested through food.

Contraindications

AGCs interact with mood-modulating medications and antidepressants. Therefore, it is necessary to consult with the doctor if you are taking medications against anxiety and depression, or if you experience headaches, irritability, insomnia, nausea and vomiting.

In order not to compromise the quality of sleep, it is suggested not to ingest food or supplements containing chlorogenic acid in the afternoon or evening. Some of the substances AGCs interact with are alcohol, adenosine, anticoagulants, alendronate, and quinolone-based antibiotics.

It also reacts to clozapine, dipyridamole, disulfiram, stimulant drugs, ephedrine, estrogens, fluvoxamine, lithium, asthma medications, pentobarbital, phenylpropanolamine, riluzole, theophylline, and verapamil.

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