Crap!!! Your Cup of Coffee May Also Come With Acrylamide - A Dangerous Chemical.6 years ago | Nutrition
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
If you live in California and part of your morning routine involves a visit to Starbucks, Coffee Bean or any other coffee shop, you may soon see signs in these places, informing you of something far more critical than the seasonal frappuccino flavors.
If the non-profit Council for Education and Research on Toxics (CERT), wins a lawsuit they filed back in 2010 in the Los Angeles County Superior Court multiple companies that make or sell coffee, like Starbucks, 7-Eleven and BP, will have to display warning signs in their places of business regarding a cancer risk with the purchase of their coffee.
It has been reported that roasting coffee beans creates acrylamide, a chemical linked to cancer in rodents.
And under the California Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 (also called Proposition 65), “[b]usinesses are required to provide a ‘clear and reasonable’ warning before knowingly and intentionally exposing anyone to a listed chemical. This warning can be given by a variety of means, such as by labeling a consumer product, posting signs at the workplace, distributing notices at a rental housing complex, or publishing notices in a newspaper.”
You have likely seen some of these warnings before entering certain buildings. It’s really not that uncommon.
Acrylamide is one of the listed chemicals along with more than 950 substances.
So what exactly is acrylamide?
“Acrylamide is a chemical used primarily to make substances called polyacrylamide and acrylamide copolymers. Polyacrylamide and acrylamide copolymers are used in many industrial processes, such as the production of paper, dyes, and plastics, and in the treatment of drinking water and wastewater, including sewage,” reports the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
“There are small amounts in some consumer products, such as caulk, food packaging, and some adhesives. Acrylamide is also found in cigarette smoke,” says the American Cancer Society.
“Acrylamide can also form in some starchy foods during high-temperature cooking [above about 250° F], such as frying, roasting, and baking. Acrylamide forms from sugars and an amino acid (called asparagine) that are naturally in food; it does not come from food packaging or the environment.”
The NIH also says that “[a]crylamide levels in food vary widely depending on the manufacturer, the cooking time, and the method and temperature of the cooking process. Decreasing cooking time to avoid heavy crisping or browning, blanching potatoes before frying, not storing potatoes in a refrigerator, and post-drying (drying in a hot air oven after frying) have been shown to decrease the acrylamide content of some foods.”
“The major food sources of acrylamide are French fries and potato chips; crackers, bread, and cookies; breakfast cereals; canned black olives; prune juice; and coffee,” says the NIH.
(Keep in mind, exposure to acrylamide is heavier from tobacco smoke than from food).
According to this report, some of the coffee companies, the defendants, involved in the lawsuit are saying that the level of acrylamide in coffee should be considered safe under the law and that the health benefits of coffee essentially outweigh the risk.
Thirteen of the defendants, including 7-Eleven, have agreed to give a warning.
On the other hand, National Coffee Association CEO Bill Murray said in a statement, “Coffee has been shown, over and over again, to be a healthy beverage. The US Government’s own Dietary Guidelines state that coffee can be part of a healthy lifestyle. This lawsuit simply confuses consumers, and has the potential to make a mockery of Prop 65 cancer warning at a time when the public needs clear and accurate information about health.”
So what is a consumer and caffeine addict to do?!
Like with most things regarding our health and wellness, there is no clear cut answer.
But you can start by looking at the evidence.
How much of a threat does acrylamide pose to humans?
The National Cancer Institute says that “[s]tudies in rodent models have found that acrylamide exposure increases the risk for several types of cancer. In the body, acrylamide is converted to a compound called glycidamide, which causes mutations in and damage to DNA.”
“However, a large number of epidemiologic studies (both case-control and cohort studies) in humans have found no consistent evidence that dietary acrylamide exposure is associated with the risk of any type of cancer. One reason for the inconsistent findings from human studies may be the difficulty in determining a person’s acrylamide intake based on their reported diet.”
So as you can see, there is no clear-cut answer and it’s really a personal choice on whether you want to avoid certain foods that contain acrylamide. If you are concerned or have a particularly high cancer risk, consult your doctor.
And remember that there are more than 950 substances on the list of potentially cancerous materials, so it is nearly impossible to avoid everything that has the potential to cause harm.
Luckily, the coffee you brew at home or that is usually served at a restaurant does not contain acrylamide. This chemical forms once the coffee beans are roasted.
At the end of the day, there are some things you cannot control such as your genes or some of the oxidative stress caused by pollutants you are exposed to just by living on this planet, but there are steps you can take in your daily life to help decrease the risk of cancer.
One of the best ways you can prevent cancer is through eating a consistently healthy diet.
The NIH says 30-40% of all cancers can be prevented by lifestyle and dietary measures alone. For cancer prevention, it is important to get a daily adequate intake of nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, which help reduce inflammation and the damage from oxidative stress.
There are many fresh fruits, vegetables and whole foods, like avocados, peaches, strawberries, blueberries, apples, artichokes, lemons and green leafy veggies that can help you get these cancer-fighting nutrients.
Adding spices and herbs to your meals is another great way to get more anti-inflammatory benefits from healthy foods.
And as always, get adequate exercise, limit your intake of sugar, processed foods and alcohol and avoid smoking, in order to decrease your cancer risk.
Enjoy your healthy life!
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of healthcare and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.