You might be considering cutting down on caffeine and are wondering if decaf coffee could be the right choice for you.
Decaf coffee is coffee made from beans that have undergone a process to remove up to 97% of their caffeine.1 The taste is largely similar to regular caffeinated coffee, but some people report that it can have a milder flavour.
There are many reasons why somebody might choose decaf. For example, those who experience stress, anxiety or insomnia are likely to avoid regular coffee as they might feel it makes their symptoms worse.
There are a huge range of decaf coffees available, but should we be drinking them and what do they mean for our health?
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How is coffee decaffeinated?
There are three major processes2:
• Carbon dioxide decaffeination
• Decaffeination using water
• Chemical solvent decaffeination
Each of these processes begin with the raw coffee beans and either soak or steam them to remove the caffeine.
Coffee that has been decaffeinated through the first two methods, carbon dioxide and water, are considered safe and non-chemical.
The third method, chemical solvent decaffeination, uses synthetic chemicals such as methylene chloride, a chemical which can cause side-effects if ingested large quantities.
After the decaffeination process, trace amounts of caffeine are left over, and no cup of decaf coffee is completely without caffeine. However, the quantities left in decaffeinated beans are very low and not likely to have any stimulating effect.
Health benefits without the buzz?
It is widely known that drinking a moderate amount of regular coffee has no adverse effect on the health. Researchers at the University of Southampton led by specialist registrar in public health Dr Robin Poole carried out a study in 20173 on the health benefits of regular, caffeinated coffee. The results were good news for coffee drinkers, with evidence of a lower risk of gallstones, gout and liver problems among many other significant health benefits.
However, caffeine is addictive, and excessive consumption is linked to potential risks on heart health. Caffeine can stimulate the central nervous system and temporarily increase blood pressure and heart rate, which is not good for anyone suffering from insomnia or stress.4
It is thought by Dr Poole and his team that decaf coffee retains the health-giving qualities of regular coffee, just without the mental and physical boost associated with caffeine.5
So, both decaf and regular coffee are good choices and have their place in a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle. If you are looking to limit your caffeine intake, choose decaf. Check the label to ensure that it is made from beans that have been filtered using water or carbon dioxide method if you are worried about traces of chemicals.
If you want to cut out coffee altogether, there are also several coffee alternatives on the market such as drinks made from barley and chicory.
Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care.
1. [Online] http://www.britishcoffeeassociation.org/about_coffee/from_bean_to_cup/decaffeination/.
2. [Online] http://www.lmc.co.uk/Coffee-Global_Markets_for_Decaffeinated_Coffee.
3. [Online] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5696634/.
4. [Online] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10516914.
5. [Online] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5696634/#ref21.