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Identification and occurrence of the bioactive -carbolines norharman and harman in coffee brews

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Norharman and harman, two heterocyclic -carboline alkaloids with biological activity, were found in brewed coffee. Identification and analysis were carried out by HPLC-MS and RP-HPLC-fluorescence, respectively. All tested samples of brewed coffee including ground coffee, decaffeinated coffee, instant coffee and espresso contained both norharman and harman in variable amounts. Norharman was the major -carboline alkaloid in brewed coffee at levels up to 9.34 g g-1 in instant ground coffee compared with harman, which had levels up to 1.67 g g-1. The two -carbolines appeared to be formed during roasting of the coffee beans. It is concluded that drinking coffee is a major exogenous dietary source of these bioactive -carboline alkaloids previously reported as mild psychoactive compounds in animal studies and in vitro co-mutagens. These results support our previous conclusion that foods containing -carbolines are an important exogenous source of these alkaloids in humans.
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Keywords: ALKALOIDS; BETA-CARBOLINE; BREWED COFFEE; COFFEE; HARMAN; HETEROCYCLIC AMINES; NORHARMAN; TRYPTOPHAN

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: panish Council for Scientific Research, Instituto de Fermentaciones Industriales, CSIC. Juan de la Cierva, 3, E-28006, Madrid, Spain

Publication date: August 1, 2002

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