Coffee, tea, and soda all up GERD risk



Coffee, tea, and soda consumption are all associated with increased risk for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), according to a new prospective cohort study presented at the annual Digestive Disease Week.

In an interview following the oral presentation, Raaj S. Mehta, MD, said that patients in his primary care panel at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, where he’s a senior resident, frequently came to him with GERD. In addition to questions about diet, patients frequently wanted to know which beverages might provoke or exacerbate their GERD.

Vidyard Video

In trying to help his patients, Dr. Mehta said he realized that there wasn’t a prospective evidence base to answer their questions about beverages and GERD, so he and his colleagues used data from the Nurses’ Health Study II (NHS II), a prospective cohort study, to look at the association between various beverages and the incidence of GERD.

“What’s exciting is that we were able to find that coffee, tea, and soda – all three – increase your risk for gastroesophageal reflux disease,” Dr. Mehta said in a video interview. “At the highest quintile level, so looking at people who consume six or more cups per day, you’re looking at maybe a 25%-35% increase in risk of reflux disease.”

There was a dose-response relationship as well: “You do see a slight increase as you go from one cup, to two, to three, and so on, all the way up to six cups” of the offending beverages, said Dr. Mehta.

Overall, the risk for GERD rose from 1.17 to 1.34 with coffee consumption as servings per day increased from less than one to six or more (P for trend less than .0001). Tea consumption was associated with increased GERD risk ranging from 1.08 to 1.26 as consumption rose (P for trend .001). For soda, the increased risk went from 1.12 at less than one serving daily, to 1.41 at four to five servings daily, and then fell to 1.29 at six or more daily servings (P for trend less than .0001).

Whether the beverages were caffeinated or not, said Dr. Mehta, only made a “minimal difference” in GERD risk.

“In contrast, we didn’t see an association for beverages like water, juice, and milk,” he said – reassuring findings in light of fruit juice’s anecdotal status as a GERD culprit.

The NHS II collected data every 2 years from 48,308 female nurses aged 42-62 years at the beginning of the study. Every 4 years dietary information was collected, and on the opposite 4-year cycle, participants answered questions about GERD. Medication use, including the incident use of proton pump inhibitors, was collected every 2 years.

Patients with baseline GERD or use of PPIs or H2 receptor antagonists were excluded from participation.

The quantity and type of beverages were assessed by food frequency questionnaires; other demographic, dietary, and medication variables were also gathered and used to adjust the statistical analysis.

A substitution analysis answered the “what-if” question of the effect of substituting two glasses of plain water daily for either coffee, tea, or soda. Dr. Mehta and colleagues saw a modest reduction in risk for GERD with this strategy.

In addition to the prospective nature of the study (abstract 514, doi: 10.1016/S0016-5085(19)37044-1), the large sample size, high follow-up rates, and well validated dietary data were all strengths, said Dr. Mehta. However, the study’s population is relatively homogeneous, and residual confounding couldn’t be excluded. Also, GERD was defined by self-report, though participants were asked to respond to clear, validated criteria.

For Dr. Mehta, he’s glad to have a clear answer to a common clinic question. “I think that this is one additional thing that I can recommend as a primary care provider to my patients when they come into my office,” he said.

Dr. Mehta reported no conflicts of interest.

Encourage your patients to visit the AGA GI Patient Center for education by specialists for patients about GERD symptoms and treatments at

Next Article: