Coffee and Cancer

Does coffee cause cancer?

This is a very common question people ask me when they find out I work with coffee. I tell them "yes" but follow them up with a "but".

Maillard Reaction

In order to understand this topic we first have to briefly go over what a Maillard Reaction is. Maillard reaction is a form of natural chemical reaction that carbohydrate goes through when it is being heated up. We see this reaction everyday as our steak grills, bacon sizzles, vegetable browns, etc. It is when food starts "browning" around 150C (302F). This natural chemical reaction is what gives cooked food an amazing flavor, and also makes it brown.

Acrylamide

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Out of such a beautiful process, cancer causing particles called acrylamide forms as a byproduct. Its accidental discovery by Swedish scientists in 2002 became a huge issue within the World Health Organization (WHO), which eventually launched more researches.

You just might be thinking "I'm here to learn more about coffee, not chemistry!" and this is where the fun begins.

Acrylamide in Coffee

Studies and researches found that coffee contains acrylamide, so yes, coffee gives you cancer but I would say this is barely true because the acrylamide contents in coffee is very low. Here is a graph of coffee and few other food products we consume everyday, and their acrylamide contents:

Acrylamide Graph

Coffee only scores around 175~351, while potato chips scores up to 2762. That's about 8 to 16 times more acrylamide than coffee! Even chocolate can contain more acrylamide than coffee; chocolate scores up to 909. So what are you waiting for? Get your cup of coffee and drink it with pride!

Information studied from:
Turning the Heat on Acrylamide, Joseph A. Rivera, 2008
Health Implications of Acrylamide in Food, World Health Organization, 2002