Dr. Friedman’s Health Blog

Coffee and Cancer: Are there any grounds for concern?

By: Dr. David Friedman


For decades we were  told that coffee was bad for us.  Doctors warned their patients to get off the java because it might lead to  heart disease, high blood pressure and an increased risk of stroke.   All those negatives were debunked after research showed coffee is good for us! In my book Food Sanity, I share research showing how drinking coffee can help combat Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and even prevents cancer.   It appears that  coffee has enjoyed its 15 minutes of fame. Now comes the news that coffee is bad for us because it increases the risk of cancer!  This is the findings after a California judge ruled that coffee contains a carcinogenic chemical called acrylamide and should come with a cancer warning!  All this java zigzagging is enough to make your head spin.  Well, before you say goodbye to your morning cappuccino, lets see if there’s any “grounds” for this cancer scare.

Acrylamide occurs in overly cooked or roasted starchy foods, including coffee beans, French fries, potato chips, breakfast cereals and toast. We are also exposed to acrylamide through skin cleansers, moisturizers, lotions and creams, makeup, hair care and nail care products.  There are no warning labels on these products yet the Council for Education and Research on Toxins has filed a law suit that would require the coffee industry to disclose the cancer risks on warming signs or labels. The health benefits of coffee are undeniable. Consuming a morning cup of Joe can protect us from many chronic illnesses; however,  do the benefits outweigh the risks  of consuming acrylamide?

In my opinion, the  added ingredients to coffee -- like sugar, cream and syrupy sweeteners -- do more harm than the miniscule amount of acrylamide you may be consuming in your coffee.  Sugar is inflammatory and is  a major contributing factor to obesity, diabetes and  certain types of cancer, such as cancers of the pancreas, liver, and kidney. Cream from dairy contains a protein called casein, which has negative health effects, including allergies, arthritis, heart disease and the growth of cancer cells. There are no warning labels on cream or sugar products. Why should there be a warning label on our coffee?  Animal studies  have shown that acrylamide causes cancer when eaten. However, the doses given to animals have been 1000–100,000 times larger than the amounts humans are exposed to by drinking coffee.  The amount of acrylamide in a cup of coffee is 7.8 (PPB) parts per billion.   Compared to another commonly consumed product, potato chips, which contains 597.5 PPB of acrylamide, you would have to drink 76 cups of coffee to get the amount of acrylamide found in one bag of potato chips!

Acrylamide is definitely a health concern and we should try to avoid consuming it.  However, the good health attributes of coffee far outweigh any possible risks when it comes to the miniscule amount of acrylamide found in coffee grounds.  Keep in mind, while there are many studies showing the positive health effects of consuming coffee, over indulging can still have negative health benefits.  That said, enjoy 1 or 3 cups per day with no worries.  If you are a pot of coffee per day person, acrylamide may be a concern.  Drink coffee in moderation. Your co-workers  will thank you.

About the Author

Dr. David Friedman is the author of the award-winning, #1 national best-selling book Food Sanity, How to Eat in a World of Fads and Fiction. He's a  Doctor of Naturopathy, Chiropractic Neurologist, Clinical Nutritionist, Board Certified Alternative Medical Practitioner, and Board Certified in Integrative Medicine.  Dr. Friedman is a syndicated television health expert and host of To Your Good Health Radio, which has changed the face of talk radio by incorporating entertainment, shock value, and solutions to everyday health and wellness issues.

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