Is Coffee Really Bad For You?
Health Warning Ruling
A California judge recently ruled that establishments had to provide a health warning regarding their coffee. The main reason for the proposed health warning is the presence of acrylamide, a chemical which could potentially cause cancer. Acrylamide is a by-product of the cooking process when foods are cooked at high temperatures. The roasting of the coffee beans causes acrylamide be present in brewed coffee.
A non for profit group, the Council for Education and Research on Toxics, sued 90 coffee retailers, arguing that they had violated Californian law by failing to warn customers of the potentially harmful chemicals in their products.
The judge in the case ruled that the defendants had failed to prove that there was not a significant risk from the chemical present in coffee. Some defendants settled before the court case and agreed to print warnings. It is possible that other defendants may file an objection to the decision.
Concerns over Coffee Consumption
Much of the concern over coffee consumption has been due to the presence of caffeine. Too much caffeine can cause insomnia, upset stomach and irregular heartbeat, among other side effects. It is also thought that caffeine could worsen certain health conditions, such as anxiety, irritable bowel syndrome, osteoporosis and high blood pressure. When it comes to the effects of caffeine, the amount consumed is a major factor. It is thought that it is safe for most adults to consume an amount of caffeine each day, but consuming too much can cause side effects and increase the risk of certain health problems.
As already mentioned, the presence of acrylamide is the reason for the proposed health warning on coffee. Many foods contain acrylamide, including roast potatoes, crisps, toast and cake. Laboratory tests have found that acrylamide can cause cancer in animals, but the evidence from human studies is inconclusive. Due to the potential risk, scientists agree that it would be wise to reduce exposure.
Possible Health Benefits of Coffee
Despite the concerns that coffee consumption may be harmful, it is also possible that it may offer health benefits. It is thought that drinking coffee could lower the risk of certain health conditions.
There have been several studies done that have shown a reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes in those who drink coffee. It is believed that the presence of antioxidants in coffee can help to prevent tissue damage. Coffee also contains the minerals magnesium and chromium, which can help the body to control blood sugar. There is evidence that decaffeinated coffee may offer the same benefits as caffeinated.
Coffee consumption has also been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease and strokes. A study on Kaiser Pemanente health plan members found that those who drunk one to three cups of coffee each day had a reduced risk of being hospitalised for abnormal heart rhythms compared to those who drunk no coffee. Another study in 2009 found that women who drunk two or more cups of coffee each day had a 20% lower risk of stroke than those who drunk less or none.
Research has also suggested that drinking coffee can increase lifespan. A study of 500,000 people conducted by Annals of Internal Medicine found that drinking three cups of coffee per day could lengthen lifespan by lowering the risk of certain conditions, such as heart disease. However, participants with pre-existing medical conditions were excluded from the study. There may also be other lifestyle factors that the study could not take into account in the results.
There have been numerous studies done on coffee consumption, some finding potential harm and others finding potential benefits. As with most things, it is best only consumed in moderation.
In the UK, advice on coffee consumption is that it's fine to drink as part of a balanced diet. However, those who are pregnant, breastfeeding or have certain medical conditions should avoid coffee or limit their consumption.
It seems that more research is needed to determine the safety of coffee consumption, but based on studies done so far there appear to be both potential risks and benefits.
This article is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice based on your own circumstances.