Thanks to a new lawsuit, we have a new controversy about coffee on our hands. The Council for Education and Research on Toxics (CERT), a non-profit organization, are claiming that coffee sellers expose people to harmful chemicals—specifically Acrylamide. This chemical is created when coffee beans are roasted, and when other foods are fried, baked, or roasted. It isn’t something that is added to coffee, other foods, or cigarette smoke. The chemical acrylamide is produced as a result of not just roasting coffee, but also of frying foods and baking certain foods, and when you burn tobacco. The concern comes from scientific studies that have found that rodents who were exposed to acrylamide have an increased risk in several types of cancer, compared to those who are not exposed to the chemical.
What is the story with acrylamide in coffee? There’s a lot we don’t know about Acrylamide. While research on rodents has shown that acrylamide exposure increases the risk of several types of cancer, these results haven’t been clearly determined in human studies. The levels of acrylamide vary widely in products, but you won’t see any levels on nutrient labels because it isn’t something that the food industry is required to show. According to the National Cancer Institute the major food sources of acrylamide are in French fries, potato chips, crackers, bread, cookies, breakfast cereals, canned black olives, prune juice, and coffee.
Note this: If you are a smoker, your levels of acrylamide can be three to five times higher than non-smokers. As usual, smoking is clearly horrible for your health. Smoking harms nearly every organ of your body. It causes 87% of lung cancer deaths and is responsible for many other cancers and health problems including emphysema, pregnancy complications, strokes, and cataracts. There’s just nothing good about it! If you still smoke or use tobacco products talk to your doctor about a cessation plan.
Okay, but can I still have my morning cup of coffee?
This is a question I hear a lot these days. Here’s my opinion: One cup of coffee a day is perfectly okay. And yes, research has found that coffee can have some health benefits including studies that show that coffee lowers risk of dying and reducing some types of cancers and having some antioxidants—so the message is confusing! The bottom line is that it is wise to limit your intake to just that one cup in the morning to minimize your risk of exposure to other potentially harmful chemicals like acrylamide. Plus, the caffeine in coffee can increase stress hormones and increase inflammation in your body. At this time, there is no way to know how much acrylamide is in our foods or coffee, and there is no way to remove acrylamide from coffee or other foods—so moderation is key!
Other ways to stay full of energy all day long.
Coffee isn’t your only option when it comes to staying energized! You can incorporate nutritional strategies that will keep you fueled all day long, and supercharge your health in multiple other ways as well.
What if I want more information on acrylamide?
-  Dearfield KL, Abernathy CO, Ottley MS, Brantner JH, Hayes PF. Acrylamide: Its metabolism, developmental and reproductive effects, genotoxicity, and carcinogenicity. Mutation Research1988; 195(1):45–77.
- Dearfield KL, Douglas GR, Ehling UH, et al. Acrylamide: A review of its genotoxicity and an assessment of heritable genetic risk. Mutation Research1995; 330(1–2):71–99.
- Friedman M. Chemistry, biochemistry, and safety of acrylamide. A review. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry2003; 51(16):4504–4526.
- National Toxicology Program. Toxicology and carcinogenesis studies of acrylamide (CASRN 79-06-1) in F344/N rats and B6C3F1 mice (feed and drinking water studies). National Toxicology Program technical report series2012; (575):1-234.
- Lipworth L, Sonderman JS, Tarone RE, McLaughlin JK. Review of epidemiologic studies of dietary acrylamide intake and the risk of cancer. European Journal of Cancer Prevention2012; 21(4):375-386.