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Nov 21, 2013 by JOHN SUMMERLY
If You're Going To Drink Coffee, Make It Caffeinated

Many people reasonably opt for decaffeinated coffee due to allergies, increased anxiety, heart rate and nervousness. However, if you are avoiding the caffeine in coffee for reasons unrelated to negative symptoms, you're likely not doing your health any favors. Not only is decaffeinated coffee unnatural and highly processed, but is has also been found to increase blood lipids that raise the risk of heart disease.

Caffeinated coffee contains antioxidants that may offer cardiovascular protection, anti-cancer properties and even prevent diabetes, which is itself a major heart disease risk factor. But it also increases homocysteine levels and may have negative effects on the aorta. In general, when a risk factor has been carefully studied and the results flip back and forth like this, it often means that if there is any harm or benefit, it’s pretty minor.

Dangers of Decaf

On the other hand, the harm that comes from decaffeinated coffee is not so minor. Though decaf has been less studied than regular coffee, it too has been the focus of several health scares that have been conflicting in various studies. For instance, one study of women in Iowa found that those drinking four or more cups a day of decaf had an elevated risk of rheumatoid arthritis, however the results were not duplicated in other studies.

The expression "naturally decaffeinated" is a bit of a misnomer. If something normally has caffeine it in, there is nothing natural about the removal of the caffeine, nor is the removal ever complete. There is always some caffeine left over after the process. In order for coffee to qualify as decaffeinated, it must have at least 97 percent of its caffeine removed. An eight-ounce cup of decaf coffee would have no more than 5 or fewer milligrams of caffeine (compared to the range of 40 - 180 mg. typically found in one eight-ounce cup of brewed, dripped, or percolated java).

Coffee beans are decaffeinated by softening the beans with water and using a substance to extract the caffeine. In one process, coffee beans are soaked in water to soften them and dissolve the caffeine. The water containing the caffeine (and the flavor from the beans) is treated with a solvent, heated to remove the solvent and caffeine, and then returned to the beans. The flavors in the water are reabsorbed by the beans, which are then dried. The most widely used solvent today is artificially produced ethyl acetate. When your coffee label states that the beans are "naturally decaffeinated," it is referring to this process, specifically using ethyl acetate. Although it doesn't sound like a natural process, it can be labeled as such because the solvent occurs in nature (even if it is produced in a lab). Other solvents have been used, some of which have been shown to be harmful. One, methylene chloride, has been alleged to cause cancer in humans and therefore is not often used, but beware of decaf coffee imported from other countries who are unregulated.

Another method uses a direct decaffeination process involving the use of carbon dioxide as a solvent. The coffee beans are soaked in compressed CO2, which removes 97 percent of the caffeine. The solvent containing the extracted caffeine evaporates when the beans return to room temperature, although some critics claim the solvent residue remains in the coffee beans in trace amounts.

If you are going to drink decaffeinated coffee, the "Swiss Water Process" is a patented method and is the best choice. It in involves another indirect method of soaking the beans in water to soften them and remove the caffeine, and then runs the liquid through activated charcoal or carbon filters to decaffeinate it. The flavor containing fluid is then returned to the beans to be dried. If your coffee is labeled naturally Swiss water processed, you can be assured that no harmful chemicals are used. If you are uncertain, you can ask or call your coffee processor to learn about the method used.

Researchers have also found that the diabetes protective effects of decaf are less than caffeinated beans and they have also found a link between decaf and increased blood lipids that raise the risk of heart disease.

When you remove part of nature, there is always a consequence.

Why It's Important To Select Only Organic Coffee

The coffee plant is one of the most heavily sprayed crops. It's coated with chemicals, pesticides, and herbicides, nothing you'd want to be ingesting. These chemicals then leech into the ground water and make people sick in local areas where coffee is grown.

Even though many chemicals that have been found to be harmful to the environment have been banned or are strictly regulated in the U.S. or Europe, they remain legal to use in less-developed countries, including many countries that grow coffee.

Endosulfan, chlorpyrifos, diazinon, disulfoton, methyl parathion, triadimefon and cypermethrin and a few of many chemicals and pesticides used to grow coffee all over the world.

Coffee should be brewed within 4-6 weeks after roasting. The industry standard shelf life is 1 year. Over 70% of coffee importers do not follow these protocols far exceeding the time range for sales and stock.

Organic coffee is one of the choices you could resort to especially if you are searching for high quality and the best coffee blends. This is fast becoming a favorite among coffee aficionados because of its high end and awesome taste and aroma. Moreover, coffee lovers who are health conscious at the same time find this coffee choice the most remarkable one.

There are renowned coffee beans and brands for organic java which are trusted by countless coffee lovers around the world. Green Mountain: Fair Trade Organic, Sprouts Farmers Market and Tom Thumb (Safeway): O Organics European Blend are just few of the brands established in the market today.

The best way to help our migratory birds is to purchase certified Bird Friendly coffees. Rather than being grown on land that has been cleared of all other vegetation, Bird Friendly coffees are planted under a canopy of trees that provide habitat for birds. In addition to being shade grown, Bird Friendly coffees are also organic, meaning they're grown without the use of chemical pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers that poison the environment. See what Kenn Kaufman says about Bird Friendly Coffee on his blog.

The Rainforest Alliance has a broad social and ecological mandate that spans many sectors including agriculture. Coffee is one of the agricultural crops targeted by Rainforest Alliance programs. The coffee certification program is aimed at ensuring that coffee workers are paid fairly, treated with respect and that the crop they tend does not contribute to soil erosion, water contamination and forest destruction: the Rainforest Alliance seal means that both social and environmental values are respected.

Health Effects of Coffee

From fighting free radicals, to improving memory, diabetes, parkinsons, and even reducing cancer risk, there are plenty of studies touting the health benefits of coffee.

Caffeic acid is found in coffee, as its name might suggest, however it is chemically unrelated to caffeine and shares none of its stimulant actions in the body. It is a member of a large class of chemicals found in coffee called phenols. Many of these phenols, such as caffeic acid, exhibit modest, dose-dependent anti-oxidant and anti-carcinogenic properties.

Chlorogenic acid is an antioxidant as well; its actions may underlie the presumed ability of coffee to prevent type 2 diabetes mellitus. Chlorogenic acid can reduce the production of glucose by the liver and also lessen the hyperglycemic peak in the blood following the consumption of sugar. The plant is believed to use chlorogenic acid to defend itself from viruses, bacteria and fungi; it may provide the same benefits for humans.

Ferulic acid is also an antioxidant which neutralizes free radicals and may prevent oxidative damage to our bodies caused by exposure to ultraviolet light when we forget to use sunscreen. Finally, ferulic acid is also a potent anti-inflammatory that my own laboratory has shown is capable of significantly reducing brain inflammation that is thought to underlie the risk of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease.

Quinides are fats that are produced when coffee beans are being roasted. Some studies suggest these fats may improve the body's ability to control blood sugar levels by enhancing the ability of insulin to remove sugar from the blood.

Blood pressure. True, a cup of coffee can temporarily kick up your blood pressure. But results from long-term studies are showing that coffee may not increase the risk for high blood pressure over time, as previously thought. It’s possible that people develop a tolerance to coffee’s hypertensive effects after a while. People who drink a cup of caffeinated coffee had a 30 percent increase in blood flow over a 75-minute period compared to those who drank decaffeinated coffee.

Cancer. Coffee might have anti-cancer properties. Researchers found that coffee drinkers were 50% less likely to get liver cancer than nondrinkers. A few studies have found ties to lower rates of colon, breast, and rectal cancers. Several studies have shown that caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee have different health effects.

Cholesterol. Two substances in coffee -- kahweol and cafestol -- raise cholesterol levels. Paper filters capture these substances, but that doesn’t help the many people who now drink non-filtered coffee drinks, such as lattes. Researchers have also found a link between cholesterol increases and decaffeinated coffee, possibly because of the type of bean used to make certain decaffeinated coffees.

Diabetes. Heavy coffee drinkers may be half as likely to get diabetes as light drinkers or nondrinkers. Coffee may contain ingredients that lower blood sugar. A coffee habit may also increase your resting metabolism rate, which could help keep diabetes at bay.

Gallstones. Coffee drinkers are less likely to suffer symptomatic gallstone disease, possibly because coffee alters the cholesterol content of the bile produced by the liver.

Parkinson’s disease. Coffee seems to protect men but not women against Parkinson’s disease. One possible explanation for the sex difference may be that estrogen and caffeine need the same enzymes to be metabolized, and estrogen captures those enzymes.

Enjoy your java.


John Summerly is nutritionist, herbologist, and homeopathic practitioner. He is a leader in the natural health community and consults athletes, executives and most of all parents of children on the benefits of complementary therapies for health and prevention.

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