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Acrylamide – Beware the Californian coffee cancer

Updated: Apr 5, 2018

Acrylamide cancer warning coffee

In California, a judge has deemed it necessary for coffee to come with a cancer warning

Shock horror! Cancer has found another way to get us through the acrylamide in coffee. We must all stop drinking coffee now and never do anything ever again. Or, just have some sense and look into why a judge has ordered for cancer warnings to be deliciously served with coffee.

The carcinogenic chemical in question is acrylamide. It is indeed a carcinogen and is formed during the roasting process of coffee. It is also produced when potatoes or asparagus are heated to high temperatures (anything with asparagine). You’ll find it in bread, crisps, cookies, breakfast cereal and crackers. So I would also like some Californian cancer warnings on them, please.

The evidence comes once again from tests done on poor, little lab rats. They were exposed to great amounts of acrylamide, increasing their chances of developing certain forms of cancer. Yet, in humans the studies are inconclusive. It appears humans and rats absorb and metabolise the chemical at different rates.

But so many people consume coffee that the judge felt there had to be a warning, despite the minuscule amounts of acrylamide present. Drinking over a hundred cups a day might be enough for the risk of cancer to be significant. Regardless, the judge has decided it is important to mislead people. To clarify this sentence, the judge wants people to be aware that acrylamide in coffee is a cancer risk and therefore this risk must be displayed. The actual dose required though need not be shared. This omission is somewhat irresponsible.

It might help coffee shops to share information on how big a dose is needed to be a significant cancer risk. The especially reactive kind are then less likely to be deterred from drinking coffee, continuing to receive the many beneficial elements.

So does drinking coffee have health benefits?

Plenty of evidence suggests the answer is yes. Without anyone willing to make a conclusive claim for the health benefits of coffee (the judge laying on this criticism in this case), there are correlations to show prevention of liver cancer, and a reduced risk of Type 2 Diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The reason why all of the above is not conclusive, and even the uncertainty of acrylamide increasing the risk of cancer too, is that other lifestyle factors cannot be discredited.

It’s very difficult to prove any cause and effect relationship when we all live such complex lives. Loading rats with doses of acrylamide we are unlikely to consume is a way to identify if this chemical really can cause cancer, but does not reflect a natural diet where all the liquids we consume have added acrylamide.

This is what makes the judge’s decision so misleading. My personal hope is that no coffee businesses in California are harmed by this ruling. It also seems unusual for coffee be slapped with this warning when alcohol and the food products mentioned at the top are left untouched.

For a previous article on the health benefits of coffee, check out this link.


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