COFFEE CAUSES CANCER! Wait. Not So Fast.

You might have seen that CA Judge Elihu Berle has ruled that coffee shops, convenience stores and others selling coffee must publicly post in each location that it contains a carcinogen named acrylamide.

Background

Here’s the Cliff Notes version of a complex story. In 1986, CA passed Prop 65, which required retailers and others to post a list of any toxic materials that someone might be exposed to while in their store. The list must be easily visible. Since a lot of stuff is toxic in large quantities-e.g-aspirin- or a lot of common household products are toxic if consumed – e.g.- Clorox- the list of dangerous products that could be in a clothing store or coffee shop quickly became enormous. (Probably defeated the original purpose of Prop 65, but that’s a different discussion).

What’s “acrylamide”?

You probably consume some every day. Any time a starch is cooked at over 250 degrees, acrylamide is produced. French fries. Potato chips. Toast. And, roasting coffee beans. Acrylamide, administered in large doses in animal test models, causes cancer. So far, there is little evidence that it does so in humans.

Medical Studies Show a Benefit to Coffee Consumption

If you are like me, a cup of coffee every morning, or more than one cup of coffee every morning, is essential to getting started. Despite Judge Berle, research studies tend to reveal that a cup of coffee is actually quite healthy. Here are some findings:

  • Coffee seems to help prevent type II diabetes (OK- not so much if you put four sugar packets in every cup). The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health maintains a longitudinal study that includes tracking coffee consumption. One element in this ongoing study compares people drinking three to five cups a day to those drinking less or no coffee.  From the study, “Bioactive compounds in coffee reduce insulin resistance and systematic inflammation…”. The study concluded that regular coffee drinkers had lower risks of cardiovascular disease, neurological diseases, type 2 diabetes and suicide. Link to the study here.
  • Coffee also has some positive impact on liver disease and reduces the likelihood of developing liver cancer. According to Dr. Carlo La Vecchia, part of the research team from the Medical School at the University of Milan: “Our research confirms past claims that coffee is good for your health, and particularly the liver.” The study found a 40% reduction in the risk of a type of liver cancer called hepatocellular carcinoma. Link to the study here.
  • According to a study performed by the University of Southern California Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center of the Keck School of Medicine, coffee consumption is associated with a lower risk of colorectal cancer. Consumption of one-to-two cups per day were associated with a 26% lower incidence of colorectal cancer. In fact, Dr. Steven Gruber, MD, PhD, MPH said “We found that drinking coffee is associated with lower risk of colorectal cancer, and the more coffee consumed, the lower the risk". Those men and women who drank on average 2.5 cups per day had a 50% lower incidence of colorectal cancer. Link to that study here.
  • Murray Mittleman, of the Harvard School of Public Health, et al, also researched coffee and health, resulting in a report titled: Habitual Coffee Consumption and Risk of Heart Failure A Dose-Response Meta-Analysis. That was the research-scientist title. The press release on the study had a much better headline: Moderate Coffee Consumption Offers Protection Against Heart Failure. (Mittleman and the other researchers introduced the term “dose” to the medical literature on coffee, which let me know that I’m self-medicating with large dosages). Link to the study here.
  • Muhammad Beg, a GI specialist at the Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center at the UT Southwestern Medical Center noted: “We don’t quite know how coffee exerts its health benefit because there are many different compounds in coffee. But researchers have shown that both caffeinated and decaf can be helpful. Studies suggest that people who drink coffee may decrease the risk of colon cancer”. Link to that report here.
  • Finally, the clincher. A very large study- over 500,000 participants across Europe- produced a ringing endorsement for coffee. Known as the EPIC study: European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition, the study reported: Coffee drinking was associated with reduced risk for death from various causes. This relationship did not vary by country. One of the leaders of the research project, Dr. Marc Gunter stated, “We found that higher coffee consumption was associated with a lower risk of death from any cause, and specifically for circulatory diseases, and digestive diseases". Link to the study here.

This study has been widely reported; there are a lot of us coffee drinkers rejoicing at these findings. However, frequently the headline in print and read by television news readers was “coffee consumption reduces the risk of dying”. Sorry. Our risk of dying remains 100%. What coffee consumption does is reduce the risk of premature dying. Still, not bad for something that also can perk you up- pun fully intended.

The Usual Disclaimers

None of us at Big Brain Place Inc. are doctors. If you look to us for medical advice you’re making a big mistake. But, in our opinion the CA courts are making a mistake. Medical evidence at this point seems to favor coffee, not find deleterious health effects.

In full disclosure we sell coffee. And to celebrate our opposition to Judge Elihu Berle, ESQ, we’re announcing our coffee sampler extravaganza. All three of our premium, small batch, fresh-and-locally roasted blends for $36. One each of our classic 100% Colombian Benchmark, our mild and fragrant Blend and our darker roasted Bold. This whole-bean coffee is roasted for us by one of the first local small-batch roasters in New England. For those of you who don’t grind beans for freshness every time you make a pot-shame on you. Ah, wait, that should say that we are working on getting these same flavors in freshly ground as well. Here’s a link: coffee sale.

Shameless Plug

We have a free shipping on everything promotion right now. That means that for a couple of particularly heavy items, we are selling below our cost. It’s your opportunity to get even with the man. Enter code:  FREE  at checkout.

Always trying to grow bigger brains,

Blake, Blane & Gene

The Big Brain Team.

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