Fact or Fiction: Drinking Coffee Can Reduce Cancer Risk
In the not so distant past, physicians and researchers were continually warning the general public about the health risks of consuming coffee as it was believed that its caffeine content was detrimental to the human body. However, throughout the past decade, there’s been a breadth of new studies that have proven this once-common theory as inaccurate.
While coffee consumption has been linked to a reduced risk of such conditions as cognitive decline and even Type 2 diabetes, perhaps the most interesting revelation is the connection between coffee and cancer. There are many studies, which have lasted for well over a decade, in which researchers have closely watched the relationship between coffee and the human body; specifically how this common beverage influences the risk of developing cancer.
Coffee as a Cancer Preventative Agent
It would be foolish to think that just by drinking coffee you can completely eliminate the development of cancerous cells. The truth of the matter is cancer can be caused by a wide array of internal and external influences. While this being noted, recent studies suggest the regular consumption of coffee can make a statistical difference in the development of a wide array of cancers.
Although there’s much debate as to the exact reasons why coffee seems to be such a potent anticancer agent, it’s believed there are several compounds within coffee that actively combat the damaging effects of this disease. Specifically, the antioxidants and the caffeine itself may actually help reduce the risk of developing certain forms of cancer.
Specific Cancers and Risk Reduction
According to the latest studies, coffee consumption has been shown to significantly reduce the likelihood of developing very specific forms of cancer. These include:
Prostate Cancer – Research has found that in study participants who consume six cups of coffee per day have a 60 percent reduction in developing prostate cancer; however, this much coffee can be seen as excessive; especially for those with caffeine sensitivities.
Brain Cancer – Studies have demonstrated those who consume a minimum of five cups of coffee feature a 40 percent reduced risk of developing certain forms of brain cancer.
Colon Cancer – Study participants who consumed at least two cups of coffee experienced a 25 percent decrease in developing colon cancer. Those who consumed at least four cups of coffee per day experienced an even greater reduction – up to 42 percent.
Breast Cancer – Researchers have found that those who consume a minimum of three cups of coffee per day can either delay or completely prevent the onset of specific breast cancer types.
Clarifying the Caffeine: How Coffee Becomes Decaffeinated
For millions of Americans, the thought of starting their day without a cup of coffee is blasphemous. However, for many this daily luxury comes at a high cost. Those who are sensitive to caffeine often find the stimulating effects of coffee are too intense. Thankfully, those who fall upon this spectrum can still enjoy the rich, aromatic quality of coffee without experience a case of the “jitters” by consuming decaffeinated coffee.
However, have you ever wondered how a naturally caffeinated product can be transformed into a relatively caffeine-free beverage? While you may think it’s due to a highly toxic, and chemically-rich process, the actual process is surprisingly gentle.
How Coffee is Decaffeinated
Although there’s no such thing as completely decaffeinated, the process in which caffeine is removed generally leaves only one to two percent of its original caffeine content. While there are several ways in which the caffeine content of coffee is reduced, there are two primary methods, which include:
Swiss Water Decaffeination
This method of eliminating caffeine content from coffee beans doesn’t involve adding chemicals. Instead, osmosis and solubility concepts are used to remove the bulk of caffeine from green coffee beans. This process beings by soaking green coffee beans in extremely hot water. The introduction of such hot water works to extract caffeine and dissolve it form the beans. Once this process is complte , the water is siphoned out and filtered through an activated charcoal press. The filter is designed to capture larger caffeine molecules while smaller molecules, which contain the flavor of coffee pass through.
The freshly extracted coffee beans may be free from caffeine, but also their flavor. This batch is typically discarded while the collected flavor-rich (and caffeine-free) water is then used to boil another batch of coffee beans. By doing so, the coffee beans absorb the delicious coffee flavor while eliminating caffeine.
Organic Solvent Decaffeination
During the beginning phases of decaffeination, the use of toxic chemicals was commonplace. However, as time progressed so did the efficiency of eliminating caffeine from coffee beans. The use of organic solvents, such as ethyl acetate and dichloromethane can selectively remove caffeine molecules from coffee beans without altering their flavor. Although dichloromethane shouldn’t be ingested, it features an easily obtainable vaporization point. Therefore, all remaining compounds are generally eliminated from the beans during the roasting process. Ethyl acetate is generally considered a safe and because it’s naturally found in nature, beans that are decaffeinated in this manner are typically marketed as naturally decaffeinated.
An In-Depth Look Into How Coffee is Manufactured
When you reach for your daily cup of coffee, you’re likely not interested in how the coffee was actually made. While your taste buds and brain appreciate the delicate flavor and stimulating effects of coffee, little do you know what immense amount of effort when into brewing this essential beverage. Whether you’re looking to fully understand this essential bean or are simply curious regarding what you’re putting in your body, the process of manufacturing coffee is one worth diving into.
Did you know coffee beans are actually seeds? To make your morning cup of coffee, these seeds are dried and then roasted before ultimately being ground and boiled. If you were to purchase green coffee beans, and not roast them, you can plant them and grow a coffee tree.
But now, let’s discuss how the coffee seeds are turned into the deliciously rich coffee bean. Once planted, a coffee tree takes roughly three to four years to bear fruit. The fruit of a coffee tree actually looks quite similar to a cherry. When they turn bright red, they’re ready for harvesting.
Once the coffee “cherries” have been harvested, they must begin processing them to prevent spoilage. There are two primary methods of processing coffee beans. These include spreading out the freshly picked coffee cherries onto a large surface to be dried by the sun. This process can take several weeks and is only completed when the cherries feature roughly a 10 percent moisture rate. The second method is by sending the cherries through a pulping machine to separate the actual bean, which rests inside the cherry. They are then passed through various separation containers and ultimately placed into large batches of water known as fermentation tanks where they’ll rest for 12 to 48 hours.
After the coffee beans have been separated from its cherry and fully dried, they must be milled. This process involves hulling the beans to remove any parchment layers, which are typically left over from wet processing. After they are hulled, the beans are polished; however, this is an optional process. Lastly, the coffee beans are sorted by weight and size and are reviewed to ensure they feature the proper color and free from any imperfections.
Finally, when the beans have been fully inspected, they’re ready to be exported. This process can vary based upon the region and where the beans are being sent. While the process of manufacturing coffee beans may not seem thrilling, this industry employs thousands and provides the luxurious drink for millions of people throughout the world.