Coffee is a wonderful thing. It makes you tolerate stupid people, hypes you up to deal with the rest of the day, and plays a big part in preventing dementia and contracting Alzheimer’s. It also makes you poop, which is the focal point of a new study being done in Texas. Yes, a group of researchers in Texas, United States, are trying to find out exactly why coffee makes you poop, and they are using everyone’s favourite rodents to do it.

Coffee, or more specifically caffeine, has long been a factor in increasing bowel movements in children and older adults. Sometimes this strange chemical reaction also affects adults and teens! The reason caffeine does this, however, has been a point of debate among researchers, food experts and more, for quite some time. This is why researchers in Texas are feeding espressos to lab rats, all in the name of science.

In his research paper, lead author of the study Xuan-Zheng Shi, details exactly what the experiment entails. “When rats were treated with coffee for three days, the ability of the muscles in the small intestine to contract appeared to increase”, the paper reads. “Interestingly, these effects are caffeine-independent because caffeine-free coffee had similar effects as regular coffee”. Naturally, Zheng Shi’s realisation is quite a surprise to all of us. This essentially means that, after three days, the research only managed to prove that, while rats managed to poop better, there were no indications that caffeine was the culprit.

With this in mind, Zheng Shi’s team tested their theory by mixing roasted beans with gut bacteria in Petri dishes. The results of this test were recently revealed during the Digestive Disease Week conference in San Diego. Yes, that is a real event

The preliminary results presented during the conference suggest that the growth of bacteria and other microbes were suppressed. The initial test used a solution of 1.5 percent coffee, whereas a second test used a 3 percent. Both solutions reduced the growth of bacteria and microbes in the faecal matter, with the 3 percent solution causing even more suppression. Decaffeinated coffee has a similar effect on the microbiome cultures, thus ruling out caffeine as the main culprit.

While the researchers are still nowhere closer to an answer, they have at least figured out that coffee, whether decaffeinated or otherwise, is likely to inhibit bacterial growth. The only caveat here is that the researchers still have no idea whether it favours firmicutes (“good” bacteria), or enterobacteria (the “bad” bacteria that messes you up from the inside).

Although we may not have a definitive answer to why coffee makes you poop; we do at least have a better idea of what coffee does to the body. Whatever the true answer may be, I know one thing for certain: I need my next fix of caffeine… so if you will excuse me, I shall be at the nearest Starbucks. Poop be damned.

[Sources: DDW (official site), EPG Online, Geek.com]