June 28, 2002

Seal of approval — Coffee Institute receives international endorsement

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From right, Drs. Andrew Neck and Andre Mushahwar get fitted for respirators during the first day of house staff orientation. Orientation continues through today for the first-year resident staff. (photo by Dana Johnson)

Seal of approval — Coffee Institute receives international endorsement

The Institute for Coffee Studies at Vanderbilt University Medical Center has been endorsed by the International Coffee Organization, a body of the United Nations. Although there is no direct financial benefit, the endorsement makes the institute eligible to apply for grants from a number of international organizations as well as opens up the opportunity for more financial gifts to the institute, aiding in new and expanded research into the potential health benefits of coffee.

The ICS, part of the Vanderbilt Addiction Center, is the first research institute in the world established to study the possible health benefits of coffee. It was established by funds from the Association of Coffee Producing Countries (Brazil and Colombia), a Coalition of Central American Coffee Producing Nations, the National Coffee Association of USA and the All-Japan Coffee Association.

The institute is interested in three particular areas: the potential use of coffee compounds to treat addiction, compounds in coffee that may have an anti-depressant effect, and the possibility that there is something in coffee that produces an anti-oxidant effect. In addition, the institute is interested in exploring how the latest biomedical research may contribute to an understanding of the health benefits of coffee consumption by funding promising projects through the ICS Pilot Studies Program.

“Coffee is the second most common traded commodity in the world behind oil,” said Dr. Peter Martin, professor of Psychiatry and Pharmacology and director of the division of Addiction Medicine. “It is so important to the life and economy of a lot of nations that there is a United Nations organization devoted to coffee. Its members include those who produce coffee and those who consume coffee.”

Martin received word of the ICO endorsement after he was asked to speak about the activities of the Institute for Coffee Studies in London in May at the organization’s annual meeting.

“The goal was for them to find out about the ICS and to see whether the member nations felt the ICS was doing something worthwhile, something that would be helpful to the ICO,” Martin said.

The day after Martin’s speech, the council voted to endorse the activities of the ICS.

“This means that the ICO and the ICS have common goals, that what we’re trying to do at ICS is consistent with what they think is important,” Martin said. “This is a route by which Vanderbilt’s ICS can be supported by the nations which comprise the ICO. Members of the ICO might also send trainees to Vanderbilt to be involved in the research of the Institute for Coffee Studies.”