Coffee has been in the news recently due to a recent court ruling. Los Angeles California Superior Court Judge, Elihu Berle, says coffee should come with a cancer warning label in order to be in compliance with Proposition 65 which was passed by the voters in 1986. That is, Acrylamide which is a byproduct of roasting green coffee beans, in high-dose exposure over many years may cause cancer.
Should this ruling influence your coffee drinking habits?
Not in the slightest. Over the past decade there have been studies – too numerous to count – showing coffee has health benefits including reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer due to its natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. One cup of coffee has far more antioxidants than an apple. Maybe the old saying should be changed to ‘a coffee a day keeps the doctor away.’
In fact, just last year the World Health Organization (WHO) said coffee can lower the risks for liver and uterine cancers. A meta-analysis from this year concludes that coffee can lower breast cancer risk. For further reading, check out this article that analyzes 127 studies “which proves overwhelmingly that drinking coffee is incredibly good for you” and concludes that most Americans don’t drink enough of the stuff to get the maximum health benefits. But does a Los Angeles Judge know better?
What is it with this seeming contradiction? It is true that Acrylamide can be found in trace amounts after the roasting process of green coffee beans that makes them dark and ready to be crushed and brewed. However, the amount you would need to consume for it to have any chance of harm would be the equivalent of several gallons a day for many years – much less if you are a laboratory rat.
From the American Cancer Society – Acrylamide has been found to increase the risk of several types of cancer when given to lab animals (rats and mice) in their drinking water. The doses of acrylamide given in these studies have been as much as 1,000 to 10,000 times higher than the levels people might be exposed to in foods.
If you see a Prop. 65 cancer warning at your local coffee shop, ignore it and enjoy your dark roast. Don’t let labels scare you away from a habit that can actually lower your cancer risk.
– Jeffrey I. Barke, M.D.