Coffee & Cancer: The Bitter Truth

Courtesy of PNG Pix.

Written by Tara Rangwani

Currently, the official verdict on whether caffeine is carcinogenic lies in the hands of a California judge following the guidance of Proposition 65, a 30 year old law that requires firms to inform customers if their products contain any of the 65 possible carcinogens.

As finals season approaches, could it finally be time to switch to tea for good as a new wave of accusations against the alleged carcinogenic content in the coffee industry arrives at our door? While this may be great news for Queen Elizabeth, the same cannot be said for us caffeine-craving college students. Here’s what we know about the allegations so far:

The source of these accusations is acrylamide, a tasteless byproduct of the brewing process that was originally discovered to be cancerous in rodents. Currently, the official verdict on whether caffeine is carcinogenic lies in the hands of a California judge following the guidance of Proposition 65, a 30 year old law that requires firms to inform customers if their products contain any of the 65 possible carcinogens. California would be the only state affected by this verdict, but the potential national repercussions are unknown. The claims against the coffee industry date as far back as 2010, with subsequent lawsuits following the initial allegations. Targeted companies included Starbucks and 7-Eleven, who recently agreed to settle the case and agree to provide a warning label. Coffee isn’t the only beverage industry to be targeted, with a University of Melbourne study claiming that those who drink at least one beverage like Coke or Pepsi a day are at increased risk of cancer.

However, all hope isn’t lost just yet – there have been several counter arguments revolving around coffee’s benign and even beneficial effects:

In 2016 the WHO (World Health Organization) removed coffee off its list of cancerous beverages, only to move onto another target: heat, which could allegedly be carcinogenic by causing esophageal burns. Some studies claim that temperatures over 65C or 149F are linked to cancer, which means consumers of iced coffee are safe (for now). On an even more positive note, moderate consumption of coffee has been associated with reduced risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes, and even an increased lifespan.

All in all, there still seems to be a lot of debate on the subject, with medical opinions swaying back and forth in the light of new evidence. It’s safe to say that it’ll take much more than a judge in California to stop people, particularly college students, from consuming coffee.

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