2009 - 2010 Undergraduate Research in Nutrition and Food Science
Background: Acid reflux, or gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD), is increasing in the U.S. and can produce greater complications if uncontrolled. Despite unknown causes, dietary habits are suspected contributors. Previous studies show contradictory food effects on GERD.
Objective: The study evaluated and related college students' caffeine intake to acid reflux. Hypotheses included: 1.) Coffee, espresso, soda, tea, chocolate, energy drinks, and pills produce temporary GERD, 2.) Gender differences are insignificant, and 3.) Caffeine pills and decaffeinated items are low risk; espresso and soda are high risk.
Design: 23-question self-administered, written anonymous survey
Participants/Setting: In February 2010, 203 University of Kentucky undergraduate students aged 18-23 years from first- to fourth-year status (20.0+1.3yrs) were surveyed on campus.
Main Outcome Measures: Frequency/type of caffeine consumption and GERD symptom frequency/severity
Results: 94.09% of subjects consumed at least one caffeine source once or more a week. Men experienced GERD significantly more than women (P=0.0091), with 42.57% of all subjects experiencing GERD. No significant gender differences existed for caffeine intake (P=0.191) or symptom frequency (P=0.533). Short-term GERD was significantly worse than long-term (P<0.01). There was no significant difference in GERD due to coffee (P=0.544), decaf coffee (P=0.906), soda (P=0.210), decaf soda (P=0.107), tea (P=0.100), or chocolate (P=0.435). However, symptoms increased with espresso (P=0.025), caffeine pills (P<0.01), or energy drinks (P=0.0067). Caffeinated soda contributed most to reflux. Fifty percent of symptom-experiencing subjects indicated soda as a source, followed by 25.53% indicating coffee. Heartburn/indigestion, then burping, were most prevalent.
Conclusions: Men experience GERD the most, especially heartburn/indigestion. Women have worse symptoms when present. Short-term symptoms are greatest. Espresso, energy drinks, and caffeine pills produce GERD significantly more than other caffeine sources. Individuals with GERD should avoid highly caffeinated items until their effects are fully understood.