Your coffee of choice might cause cancer and lead to your eventual, untimely death, say researchers.
If having a cup of coffee is a favourite way to start your day you might want to reconsider.
Your coffee of choice might cause cancer and lead to your eventual, untimely death, say researchers. The alleged culprit is acrylamide, a compound formed when coffee beans are roasted.
What is acrylamide?
Acrylamide is a chemical used mainly in certain industrial processes, such as in making paper, dyes, and plastics, and in treating drinking water and wastewater. There are small amounts in some consumer products, such as caulk, food packaging, and some adhesives. Acrylamide is also found in cigarette smoke.
Acrylamide can also form in some starchy foods during high-temperature cooking, such as frying, roasting, and baking. Acrylamide forms from sugars and an amino acid that are naturally in food; it does not come from food packaging or the environment.
Is coffee-based acrylamide really a threat to public health?
“Coffee is connected to cancer development by the fact that coffee is sometimes drunk by living people and only living people develop cancer,” said Robert A. Weinberg, an oncologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
In 2016, the World Health Organization declared that there was “inadequate evidence for the carcinogenicity of coffee drinking,” dropping a previous designation of possible carcinogenicity.
Kathryn M. Wilson, a cancer epidemiologist at Harvard University who has studied the effects of acrylamide on the human body says, “It’s a lot more helpful to look at coffee as a food,” Wilson said. And it’s a food, she pointed out, that is the main source of antioxidants for many people.
Coffee has been shown to lower the risk of liver cancer and Type 2 diabetes.
How to reduce your intake of this carcinogenic substance
One obvious way to reduce your intake of the harmful substances in coffee is, well, to drink fewer cups a day. However, you should avoid coffee alternatives that have gone through roasting. Acrylamide is formed when carbohydrate-containing substances are roasted or otherwise heated to high temperatures.
According to an analysis based on the FDA data, dark-roasted beans seem to contain lower levels of acrylamide.