The Nanny Police need to knock it off.
Longtime readers might remember how I railed against so-called “regulators” who demanded restaurant chains include “high sodium” icons on their menus.
Regulators took it a step further when they demanded cuts in the amount of salt in foods. That’s despite the fact that not getting enough salt is just as dangerous as getting too much. Education is far more powerful than mere restriction.
First, they came for our salt. Now they’re coming for our coffee…
A small group called Council for Education and Research on Toxics (CERT) sued coffee retailers, including Starbucks. They alleged these shops need to post warnings alerting people that coffee causes cancer.
Last week, a judge ruled in their favor. That means the next time you go for your morning latte in California, you might have to stare at a sign warning you that you’re drinking cancer-causing toxins.
CERT made its claims based on a chemical called acrylamide. It’s true that acrylamide forms during the roasting process. So roasted coffee beans contain some acrylamide. Research linked it to various cancers, though only when you consume high amounts… more than you’d get from drinking your morning cup.
It’s a huge overreach of regulations.
And it’s a scare tactic designed to keep folks from the benefits of coffee, including cancer-fighting antioxidants.
Here are a few points to keep in mind…
1. Coffee fights cancer. Many studies demonstrate how compounds in coffee actually protect our DNA and help ward off cancer. In fact, it’s on the list of ways to prevent liver cancer, according to the World Cancer Research Fund International. And liver cancer is one of the deadliest cancers you can get.
2. The only cancer link is in the temperature. As we wrote in 2016, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) stated that drinks that are 149 degrees F or hotter when consumed can cause esophageal cancer. That makes sense – liquids that hot can damage the cells lining our esophagus and potentially hurt the DNA. Over time, that can lead to cancer. What’s more, when this announcement happened, the IARC also removed coffee from its list of carcinogens.
3. There’s no easy way to measure your intake of acrylamide. Regulators set the limit at about 2.6 micrograms (microg) per kilogram of body weight. So an adult weighing 150 pounds would have a limit of about 176 microg.
The problem is that researchers measure acrylamide in food by parts per billion (ppb). That measures concentration, not weight (like microg).
A study out of the National Food and Nutrition Institute in Warsaw sought to measure acrylamide in coffee based on micrograms. They concluded a brewed cup of coffee contained an average of just 0.45 microg of acrylamide.
4. Acrylamide is in almost everything. And coffee contains far less than other foods. You also need to look at brewed versus ground coffee. According to studies from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), ground coffee from Starbucks has about 100 to 150 parts per billion of acrylamide. But brewed coffee (what you actually consume) is only 11.
Other foods containing acrylamide are baked goods, breakfast cereals, and potatoes. Potato chips and French fries contain as much as six times the amount of acrylamide as ground coffee. And I still see people chowing down on McDonald’s fries and Lay’s potato chips.
The point is, acrylamide is everywhere. It’s even in our drinking water. But it’s often in low enough amounts that it doesn’t pose a danger. That’s why regulations like this do nothing but scare folks unnecessarily.
Ignore the noise and just enjoy your coffee.
- More on the recent court case.
- Read the full Warsaw study here.
- Something different: A look at the streets named for Martin Luther King Jr.
Here’s to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,
Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
April 3, 2018