Is Decaf Coffee Bad for Your Health?

Decaf Coffee cup sitting on wooden table

While I don’t particularly like decaf anything, and prefer the real stuff because I’m a bit of a caffeine junkie, I know plenty of people that love the stuff. Whether it’s because they prefer not to get amped up after dinner, but still want the nice flavor of warm coffee, or they simply don’t respond well to caffeine, decaf coffee is more popular than you might guess. Recently, however, there have been some studies performed that highlight some of decaf coffee’s more deleterious effects. While decaf coffee in moderate amounts is unlikely to be harmful (as long as you forgo tons of creamers and sweeteners), there are a few things to be aware of before you reach for those decaffeinated beans.

Antioxidants Loss During Extraction

One reasons that coffee has become regarded by the scientific community as healthy in recent years is the high levels of antioxidants found in the beans. However, the process of decaffeination removes many of these beneficial antioxidants and with it go many of the associated health benefits. When coffee roasters decaffeinate coffee, they steam the beans in order to open up its pores and make room for the solvents used to remove the caffeine. The problem with this steaming is that is significantly alters the chemical structure of the coffee, which includes the removal of the water-soluble antioxidants. Although both regular and decaf experience some of this loss during the high heat of the brewing process, regular coffee beans do not go through this initial process.

Can Interfere with Bone Density

Decaf coffee has also been shown to increase metabolic acidity, which can interfere with healthy bone density. As you raise the acidity levels in your body, through decaf coffee or some other method, you throw off your overall calcium balance, which causes your body to excrete more calcium than it normally would. As you probably remember from milk advertisements as a kid, calcium is critical for bone health and preventing conditions like osteoporosis and simply maintaining sufficient bone density. Calcium also plays a role in a heart and nervous system health.

May Raise Cholesterol Levels

All coffee, regular or decaf, contains two naturally occurring chemicals, kahweol and cafestol, both of which have been found to raise your cholesterol. When brewing regular coffee, the paper filter ends up removing most of the kahweol and cafestol, which means they don’t make into your cup and subsequently into your body. However, decaf coffee, even with the kahweol and cafestol filtered out, has still been found to raise cholesterol levels.  Why, even in the absence of the chemicals, decaf still raises overall cholesterol is a bit of a mystery, but researchers believe that it might have to do with the process used to decaffeinate the coffee. Another theory is that is comes down to the types of beans used. Decaf coffee is typically made with Robusta beans, which naturally contain higher levels of kahweol and cafestol when compared to the Arabica beans used in regular coffee. If these chemicals are something you’re concerned about, remember that brewing without paper filters utilizing a brewing process like a stovetop coffee maker or espresso machine is going to leave you with much more of them in your finished coffee.

Gastrointestinal Issues and Distress

Drinking too much decaf coffee can result in a few different types of gastrointestinal issues. One report found that when consumed in excess, decaf coffee has been found to be the source of heartburn, ulcers and gastroesophageal reflux disease, which can lead to esophageal cancer. Again, when consumed in moderate amounts, this will not be an issue, but if you were having cup after cup of decaf coffee every day, it would be a mistake to think that it isn’t without its risks.

Now, all of this is simply meant to inform, not to make you worry about having a cup of coffee every day, decaf or not. Like everything in life, moderation is key and as long as you don’t overdo it, you have nothing to worry about.

Remy Bernard – Owner and Editor at Miss Mamie’s Cupcakes

A baker, chef and writer, Remy started missmamiescupakes.com as a way to deepen and spread her passion for making delicious food. She can also be found on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook.

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