By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness
February 28, 2018
- Is there cancer in your coffee?
- 4 major health benefits associated with a few cups of java each day
- The best and worst coffees for you
Thanks to a recent California lawsuit, acrylamide levels in coffee are big news these days. Suddenly, everyone is concerned that they’ll die of cancer the next time they drink a cup of java from Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts.
If you’re not familiar with acrylamide, it’s a pretty nasty compound that is generated when certain foods are cooked at high temperatures. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies it as a probable human carcinogen and neurotoxin.
But here’s the thing. Coffee is not the only source of acrylamide. Nor is it the highest dietary source of this chemical compound.
The truth is, the bulk of acrylamide in our diets comes from potato products, such as French fries and potato chips. Acrylamide is also present in breakfast cereal, cookies, crackers and toast.
At the same time, the IARC finds “no conclusive evidence for a carcinogenic effect of drinking coffee”. Not only that, but after reviewing more than 1,000 scientific studies, the agency notes that coffee may actually be protective against certain types of cancer.
This makes a lot of sense when you consider that coffee is packed full of antioxidant polyphenols and other wholesome compounds.
4 Major Health Benefits Associated with Coffee Intake
I believe there is plenty of truth behind the health benefits of drinking coffee. Some of the most impressive include…
- Drinking three to five cups a day is associated with lower cardiovascular risk than drinking none. It also appears to be slightly protective against stroke.
- People who drink at least four cups of coffee a day may be able to cut their risk of dying over the next 10 years by as much as 64%.
- Enjoying three to five cups a day during mid-life decreases the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease by about 65% at late-life.
- When people who drink one or less cups of coffee a day increase their consumption by more than a cup, it cuts their risk of developing diabetes by about 11%. (However, if they reduce their coffee consumption the risk of diabetes actually increases by 17%.)
Still, cancer-causing chemicals like acrylamide are nothing to be taken lightly. So let’s take a look at how you can make your coffee experience even more healthful.
The Best and Worst Coffees for You
If you are worried about acrylamide in your coffee, there are three things to keep in mind. According to a 2013 analysis of 28 ground roasted coffees, 11 instant coffees and three coffee substitutes:
- Coffee substitutes, which are made from roasted chicory and grains, contain the highest amount of acrylamide – about 4.5 times the amount found in roasted coffee.
- Instant coffees have the second highest content. On average, they contain about double the level of acrylamide found in roasted coffee.
- Ground roasted coffees contain the least, especially the darker roasts. This is because acrylamide peaks early during the heat process and breaks down in the later stages. Thus, light roasts contain more acrylamide than moderately dark or significantly darker blends. Additionally, Arabica roasted coffee contains slightly less acrylamide than Robusta coffee.
So go ahead and take pleasure in your morning coffee. Just stick with a darker roast and enjoy it in moderation. (I also recommend selecting a blend made from organic coffee beans to avoid heavy pesticide residue.)
In the meantime, foods cooked at high temps are a major source of acrylamide in your diet. This is especially true when it comes to potato and grain products that are fried, cooked or processed at high heat. They can contain several hundred times the amount of acrylamide that you would find in a cup of coffee.
As a result, avoiding these foods is your best bet when it comes to reducing acrylamide exposure.
By the way… if the stories about acrylamide in your coffee had you worried, you may be even more concerned about recent headlines claiming that drinking hot tea will give you cancer.
Rest assured, I’ll fill you in on all of the facts you need to know about hot tea in the March 5, issue of Advanced Natural Wellness. So be sure to watch for it in your inbox.
IARC Monographs evaluate drinking coffee, maté, and very hot beverages. Press Release. International Agency for Research on Cancer/World Health Organization. Jun 2016.
Higher coffee consumption associated with lower risk of death. Press Release. European Society of Cardiology. Aug 2017.
Ding M, et al. Long-term coffee consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease: a systematic review and a dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Circulation. 2014 Feb 11;129(6):643-59.
Larsson SC, et al. Coffee consumption and risk of stroke: a dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. Am J Epidemiol. 2011 Nov 1;174(9):993-1001.
Bhupathiraju SN, et al. Changes in coffee intake and subsequent risk of type 2 diabetes: three large cohorts of US men and women. Diabetologia. 2014 Jul;57(7):1346-54.
Eskelinen MH, et al. Midlife coffee and tea drinking and the risk of late-life dementia: a population-based CAIDE study. J Alzheimers Dis. 2009;16(1):85-91.
Mojska H, et al. Studies of acrylamide level in coffee and coffee substitutes: influence of raw material and manufacturing conditions. Rocz Panstw Zakl Hig. 2013;64(3):173-81.
Survey Data on Acrylamide in Food: Individual Food Products. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Last Updated: 01/25/