Does Coffee Cause Cancer?

It feels like no matter what topic you pick these days, there’s “new research” that says it causes cancer, and there’s research that says it will help you live forever. Coffee is no exception to this, with articles and studies going both ways.

According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an agency for the World Health Organization (WHO), coffee is no longer classified as a carcinogen as of June 15, 2016. It was previously classified as a possible carcinogen back in a study from 1991. You can find the press release here.

A study released September 17, 2015 by the American Heart Association (AHA) observing over 200,000 people over a 30 year period concludes that coffee consumption (including caffeinated and decaffeinated) lowers risk of all-cause mortality, however, no affect on cancer-related mortality was observed. This effect was stronger as the number of cups per day increased – up to 5 cups per day.

So, the answer also to does decaf coffee cause cancer is no. The study doesn’t go into details about whether the coffee is decaffeinated by CO2, Swiss Water or other methods. However, it doesn’t decrease your risk either.

Source: http://circ.ahajournals.org/

With the SCAA (Specialty Coffee Association of America) and CAC (Coffee Association of Canada) both reporting about 3.2 cups/day for the average coffee drinker, coffee could play a significant factor in keeping the overall population healthy. Approximately 34% of Americans and 65% of Canadians drink at least one cup per day.

Does Smoke from Roasting Coffee Cause Cancer?

Any sort of burnt particulate being inhaled has the potential to cause cancer, but no research has come to the firm conclusion that smoke from roasting coffee will cause cancer. There is evidence that roasting coffee releases chemicals known as Diacetyl and 2,3-pentanedione, which are linked to obliterative bronchitis – an irreversible scarring of the lung tissue.

These two compounds were previously known to be linked to the flavoring agents used in flavored coffee (as well as butter flavoring in popcorn facilities) that become airborne during the mixing and grinding process in coffee roasting facilities.

Source: CDC.gov

 

What is an Italian Soda?

An Italian Soda is a flavored carbonated drink, typically made with a flavouring syrup component and an unflavored carbonated component.

Italian Sodas can be purchased pre-mixed from grocery stores, though the quality isn’t usually great. The most popular way to enjoy an italian soda is to buy the components and made it yourself at home, which is as simple and mixing the ingredients together in a glass.

Fruit flavors are typically used in Italian Sodas, such as peach, raspberry, lemon, lime, strawberry, etc. A popular variation know as the Italian Cream Soda adds a vanilla or coconut flavor to the fruit flavor to create a smoother, creamier taste.

The carbonated portion can be made using mineral water, sparkling water, or plain water depending on personal preferences.

They usually don’t have any caffeine content, though they can be mixed with a tea (after cooling) for a little pick-me-up.

Italian Soda Brands

Popular brands of flavoring syrups include Torani, Monin and 1883. These brands are known for using quality ingredients, and a have a lineup of over 100 unique flavours each.

Sugar Free Italian Sodas

Sugar Free Syrups can also be used, which are typically sweetened with Splenda, though sometimes Aspartame or Stevia are used. They allow people with a restricted diet (due to a diet, or diabeters) to enjoy more flavorful drinks.

What are the symptoms of caffeine withdrawal?

Regular caffeine consumption reduces sensitivity to caffeine. When caffeine intake is reduced, the body becomes oversensitive to adenosine. In response to this oversensitiveness, blood pressure drops dramatically, causing an excess of blood in the head (though not necessarily on the brain), leading to a caffeine withdrawal headache.

This headache, well known among coffee drinkers, usually lasts from one to five days, and can be alleviated with analgesics such as aspirin. It is also alleviated with caffeine intake (in fact several analgesics contain caffeine dosages). Even small amounts of caffeine (such as a green tea, compared to a full coffee) can do wonders to alleviate a withdrawal-induced headache.

The top 10 reported symptoms of caffeine withdrawal:

  1. Headache
  2. Sleepiness
  3. Irritability
  4. Fatigue, lethargy
  5. Constipation
  6. Depression
  7. Muscle stiffness, cramping
  8. Brain fog, Inability to focus
  9. Cold-like symptoms
  10. Anxiety

Often, people who are reducing caffeine intake report being irritable, unable to work, nervous, restless, and feeling sleepy, as well as having a headache. In extreme cases, nausea and vomiting has also been reported. These are very real experiences [1], and despite recurring jokes, can cause problems with normal functioning.

Is Caffeine Withdrawal Real?

In short: Yes. Negative effects from quitting caffeine have been scientifically documented in clinical studies.

Of 49 symptom categories identified, the following 10 fulfilled validity criteria: headache, fatigue, decreased energy/activeness, decreased alertness, drowsiness, decreased contentedness, depressed mood, difficulty concentrating, irritability, and foggy/not clearheaded. In addition, flu-like symptoms, nausea/vomiting, and muscle pain/stiffness were judged likely to represent valid symptom categories. [1]

Additionally, caffeine withdrawal is recognized by psychiatrists as a real disorder.

Caffeine withdrawal is a recognized disorder and is listed in the DSM-5.

How Long Does Caffeine Withdrawal Last?

The answer to this will depend on your level of consumption and the level you reduce your caffeine consumption to.

In experimental studies, the incidence of headache was 50% and the incidence of clinically significant distress or functional impairment was 13%. Typically, onset of symptoms occurred 12-24 h after abstinence, with peak intensity at 20-51 h, and for a duration of 2-9 days. [1]

That means you’ll probably notice the start within 12-24 hours with the worst being the second day you after you quit. From there, it gradually gets better over the course of a week to a week and a half.

Your brain is miraculously resilient and adapts to life without caffeine in just 2 short weeks. The psychological habit of drinking caffeine can take 3 to 4 weeks to break, but can also be replaced with decaf coffee or another low-caffeine drink (eg. tea).

Reports of people having withdrawal symptoms months or years after quitting coffee or caffeine are more typically confused with general health maladies or other drugs.

Dealing with Caffeine Withdrawal

The severity of caffeine withdrawal symptoms vary with how extreme the restriction, and a gradual reduction can do wonders in avoiding symptoms. Simply starting by replacing one cup of coffee with a decaf coffee or tea will provide a much smaller dose of caffeine, allowing your receptors to re-acclimate to lower levels. Drinking coffee (decaf) or other warm beverage (tea) instead of regular coffee helps psychologically with the well established habit.

Timing large reductions in caffeine consumption is also a useful tool. Picking a time of rest and relaxation such as a weekend or vacation can lessen the burden of symptoms like brain fog and a lack of motivation.

Hydration is also key – while coffee is a diuretic it’s also mostly water, and cutting back on coffee may also inadvertently cut back on your fluid intake. Many symptoms of dehydration overlap with caffeine withdrawal including headaches, cramping, irritability and lethargy.

Without caffeine blocking your adenoseine receptors, your body’s built up levels of adenosine will lead to a lot of sleepiness. Get lots of rest! Scientists are still puzzled by why humans need sleep, aside from getting tired. According to some research from the NIH (National Institutes of Health) has indicated that sleep enables your brain to drain built-up chemical by products of working so hard (you little genius), which is good for you!

Advil or Tylenol can be an effective method of dealing with the coffee withdrawal headache. Other natural pain relievers such as running / exercise and even an orgasm can provide temporary relief by dilating blood vessels in the brain.

The best solution may not be totally ceasing caffeine consumption though. Coffee does have health benefits, as it contains over 1000 known compounds, with many associated with lowering blood pressure and improving cardiac function, as well as liver protection [2]. Generally, the best coffees are grown at higher elevations will develop more healthy chlorogenic acids that are present in higher concentrations in light roasts than dark roasts. If you’re a dark roast lover however, darker roasts cause less stomach acid production. A decaffeinated coffee with just 5-25 mg of caffeine will still retain a lot of its healthy chemicals and will provide health benefits in medium and dark roasts.

With these tips you can reduce the caffeine in your body and avoid the rebound of a caffeine withdrawal.

References

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15448977

[2] Coffee Consumption Decreases Risks for Hepatic Fibrosis and Cirrhosis: A Meta-Analysis
http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0142457

Caffeine and Health. J. E. James, Academic Press, 1991. Progress in Clinical and Biological Research Volume 158. G. A. Spiller, Ed. Alan R. Liss Inc, 1984.

Xie et al “Sleep initiated fluid flux drives metabolite clearance from the adult brain.” Science, October 18, 2013. DOI: 10.1126/science.1241224

Vacuum Bottles and Carafes for storing brewed coffee

Once coffee is brewed it immediately starts to cool. A certain amount of cooling in the cup is obviously desirable so that the coffee drops to a temperature comfortable to the mouth but between the ending of brewing and drinking most of the heat needs to be held.

Most auto drip pots have a burner under the pot that can keep coffee warm but it is at the same time burning the coffee in the pot. This is about the worst possible way to keep coffee warm. It the burner is your only option, let your coffee get cold and warm it up in the microwave or even better make only as much as you will drink at a time without the burner.

For people who need to keep coffee warm for longer periods of time the best option is a vacuum bottle or a similar well insulated carafe. These hold the coffee at a warm temperature by not allowing the coffee’s warmth to escape.

There are a number of different designs and your personal needs will dictate much of your choice. If you plan to carry your coffee without you or are clumsy you may want to avoid a models that use glass. For people who notice metal flavors you may want to look for a model that has a glass inner lining instead of the more common metal lining.

Some vacuum units use a pump to push the coffee into the cup. This design is generally referred to as an air pot. This is the best option since it means that the lid is not constantly opened and closed as coffee is served. On the other hand if you need to take a few cups on the road this is probably not an option. Some units that are opened to pour have a push button that opens a valve that allows coffee to be poured without having to take the lid off. This is also a good choice.

Ultimately  what should be looked for is a good tight seal and a good vacuum or other insulating material. Unfortunately it’s tough to judge this just by looking so look at reviews.

One more thing that should be mentioned is that vacuum bottle can loose their vacuum. When this happens they will no longer keep beverages hot so if you notice a vacuum bottle that previously worked well is no longer keeping your beverages cold you have probably lost your seal and it’s time to get a new vacuum bottle.

Regardless of how long your vacuum bottle or carafe can keep coffee warm the coffee will still deteriorate after brewing so keep your hold times as short as possible and brew more often. Obviously when you are traveling and want to take some coffee on the road this is not an option so a good vacuum bottle is the answer.

What is “white coffee”?

This is generally a proprietary coffee that a few coffee shops have started to sell. The general consensus is that it is seriously under roasted coffee. The advertising hype that goes with it would agree with this assumption although the people selling this product will not say anything about how it is made. Because barely roasted beans are extremely hard a special grinder is required to grind the coffee beans.

White Coffee is actually fairly difficult to produce, given that roasting imparts many of the flavor changes most people associate with what a “coffee” is. Light roasts retain many of the prominent single origin flavors, along with more of the plant-based chemicals and organic acids that aren’t the most pleasant tasting. This higher volume of organic acids and other compounds is exactly what purportedly makes it healthier however, and is impacted to a great extent by the severity of the roast.

Unfortunately there’s no consensus on what a white coffee really is – companies that produce their private branded coffee obscure the origin as well as roast level intentionally to create consumer lock-in. There’s also no real evidence that white coffee is substantially healthier than a regular, light-medium roasted coffee, or coffee in general.

White Coffee Caffeine Content

One of the common claims about white coffee is that it is higher in caffeine than normal coffee. In theory, coffee loses caffeine by volume as it is roasted so it probably does have more caffeine by volume. This point is negligible compared to the variations between different origins – a high grown Ethiopian coffee bean for example would have more caffeine than a low-altitude Brazilian coffee because it takes more time to develop on the tree and therefore gains more nutrients.

In reality, there’s only minor losses going from a light roast and a dark roast – just 5.4% – not enough to have a noticeable impact on caffeine levels and certainly not enough to justify choosing a coffee based on roast alone.

Caffeine did not undergo significant degradation with only 5.4% being lost under severe roasting.
Source

One theory that has been proposed is that the blend may be all or mostly Robusta coffee beans to boost the caffeine. This would indeed boost the caffeine content, and cost less to manufacture as Robustas are typically less expensive. The significant problem with this theory is that Robustas are generally not great tasting, and a light roast would do nothing to cover those flavors.

Other “White Coffee” Drinks

In Australia a white coffee or a “flat white” can be any number of different espresso and milk of coffee and milk drinks. Starbucks has introduced the “flat white” into North America, but does not refer to it as a white coffee.

In the US and UK you will from time to time hear coffee with milk or cream referred to as white coffee, but has nothing to do with the coffee roast.

White coffee can also refer to a cup of instant with a dash of cold milk.