Is Decaffeinated Coffee Good For You?
Is Decaffeinated Coffee Good For Health?
Decaffeinated coffee also called decaf coffee has almost the same taste and appearance as regular coffee. However, on the inside, the two varieties of coffee have different levels of caffeine. At the moment, there are is scientific research that shows that drinking decaf coffee has negative health benefits. Interestingly, some studies even show that taking decaf coffee might be beneficial for your health. In the end, we will show you some potential health benefits of decaf coffee.
How does Decaf differ from regular coffee?
The most important difference between decaf coffee and regular coffee is the caffeine content. The name decaf is the shortened version of decaffeinated which means coffee without caffeine. Therefore, unlike regular coffee, decaf coffee usually has very little to no caffeine in it.
The process of removing caffeine from coffee beans is called decaffeination. Usually, the process happens before the roasting of the beans although recent studies suggest that decaffeination might be faster with roasted decaf coffee beans.
Manufacturers usually subject the coffee beans to a range of treatments to achieve little to no caffeine content. That is, they soak or steam the beans in a combination of water and any of the following:
- Activated charcoal
- Ethyl acetate
- Methylene chloride
- Supercritical carbon dioxide
Caffeine is a water-soluble substance, which is why manufacturers use water in the process. Unfortunately, caffeine is not the only water-soluble substance present in the beans during caffeine extraction. Coffee beans also contain other beneficial compounds like sugar, proteins, and many more that might get lost with the water if the beans are soaked for too long.
To prevent losing these important nutrients into the water, manufacturers add the above chemicals to speed up the process of decaffeination. Asides from reducing the loss of the non-caffeine compounds, the chemicals also preserve the flavour of the coffee beans.
Is decaf coffee dangerous for your health?
At the moment, there is no single evidence to prove that decaf coffee alone has any harmful effects. There was a study in 2017 to review coffee consumption. At the end of the study, the researchers concluded that there were decaf coffee did not have any harmful health benefits. Similarly, a combined study comparing regular coffee with decaffeinated coffee did not show any difference in serum cholesterol levels. That means, both regular and decaf coffee has the same effects on the heart.
However, scientists say that the issues that the health risks associated with decaf coffee are usually due to the manufacturing process. For instance, some scientists say that the brewing method could determine whether the coffee would raise cholesterol in the body or not. Usually, all types of coffee contain a substance called diterpene cafestol that is said to raise cholesterol levels in the body. However, this substance is only present in coffee when it is unfiltered.
Also, there have been concerns that the methylene chloride used in the decaffeination process could have serious health risks. In small amounts of up to 200 parts per million, methylene chloride can slow down the activity of the central nervous system, impairing a person's hand/eye coordination.
To ensure that people are safe, the FDA approves the use of methylene chloride for decaffeination so far the final product does not contain any more than 10 parts per million of methylene chloride residue.
How much caffeine do you have in decaf coffee?
Even with its name, decaf coffee still contains some amounts of caffeine. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), a small 80z cup of decaf coffee has up to 2 mg of caffeine in it.
However, different brands have different concentrations of caffeine in their coffee. Some studies have shown that about 6 oz coffee cup of decaf coffee can contain up to 7 mg of caffeine. However, the average across brands is about 3mg per cup.
Compared with regular coffee, the average of 3mg is almost negligible. Regular coffee usually contains between 70 to 140 mg of caffeine. Depending on the beans, the cup size and the preparation method, the quantity could even be more.
Therefore, while decaf coffee does not mean 100% caffeine-free, the amount of caffeine in it is very little.
The interesting part is, green and black teas even contain more caffeine than decaf coffee. A regular cup of 8oz black or green tea usually gets you between 30–50 mg of caffeine.
What are the health benefits of decaf coffee?
Before you go any further, you need to know that coffee is one of the most nutritious beverages you can consume. Both regular and decaf coffee have huge benefits for human health. Research suggests that both of them have several compounds in that can reduce one's chances of developing some cancers.
One of those studies suggest that drinking coffee regularly can reduce a person's risk of developing cancers like
- Endometrial cancer
- Skin cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Oral cancer
- Liver cancer
While several studies have examined the health benefits of coffee in general, only a few have done the same on the specific benefits of decaf coffee. Therefore, understanding the health benefits of decaf coffee can be complex. For instance, one can not be sure if removing caffeine lowers the beneficial effects of coffee.
But then, a few scientists have been able to link regular decaf coffee intake with low mortality rate and death from cardiovascular causes. According to these scientists, people who drank between 2 to four cups were at lower risks compared with others.
Also, a recent observational study suggests that decaf coffee might have protective effects on the liver. Besides, studies show that decaf coffee can reduce acid reflux problems that are common symptoms with taking regular coffee.
You should check out our guide to the best non-dairy milk alternatives.
Who should choose decaf over regular coffee?
People tolerate caffeine differently. While some people might consider the caffeine in one cup of coffee too much, some others might feel the need to take more. While tolerance to caffeine usually varies, doctors advise that healthy adults should not take more than 400 mg of caffeine daily. That is about four cups of coffee.
Too much caffeine can easily lead to loss of sleep, high blood pressure and some other symptoms. Altogether, this can increase one's chances of getting a stroke or heart disease. Too much caffeine can also cause problems in the central nervous system. As such, people who are sensitive to caffeine will likely feel anxiety, restlessness, irregular heartbeats, digestive issues and lack of sleep.
Therefore, doctors usually advise people who are sensitive to caffeine to limit their coffee intake. In the alternative, they can take decaf coffee or Tea without cutting their coffee consumption.
Decaf coffee is also recommended for people with medical conditions that require restricted caffeine diets. This includes people that are on special medications that interact with caffeine.
In addition, pregnant and breastfeeding women need to limit their caffeine intake for the health of their babies. Similarly, health specialists advise children, adolescents and people with anxiety problems or insomnia to lowering their caffeine intake. For people who fall in all these categories, decaf coffee comes as a safer option.