If we go by the California lawsuit which was filed in 2010, coffee may cause cancer risk. However, coffee companies claim that although coffee contains a possible carcinogenic element called acrylamide but its quantity is not too high to increase the risk of cancer. It is present in negligible amount which doesn’t have any harmful effect.

So the important question is what does science say about it? Is this almost negligible amount of acrylamide present in coffee increases the risk of cancer in people?

What is acrylamide and which foods contain them?

Well the lawsuit is just talking about coffee, acrylamide is found in many other types of cooked foods also and even in cigarette smoke. Marji McCullough, strategic director of nutritional epidemiology at the American Cancer Society says that when the starchy foods such as breakfast cereals and toast, potato chips, coffee beans, canned black olives, French fries etc., are heated to high temperatures this chemical (acrylamide) is formed. He is not involved in the California lawsuit.

According to the National Cancer Institute, production of plastics, paper and dyes involves the use of substances like polyacrylamide and acrylamide copolymers which are made using the chemical acrylamide. This chemical is also used for the treatment of drinking water and wastewater, including sewage.

NCI also says that the primary mediums through which people get exposed to acrylamide are food and cigarette smoke. The best way to reduce the consumption of acrylamide in your diet is by not heating up the starchy food too much. As per the review of the Journal Nutrition and Cancer, “People who smoke have three to five times the amount of acrylamide exposure markers in their blood than non-smokers do.”

Does acrylamide increase the risk of cancer in humans?

According to the NCI, when we consume acrylamide it gets transformed into glycidamide, a compound which is harmful for our DNA as it can cause mutation or damage it. It has been proven that acrylamide increases the risk of cancer in rodents but when it comes to human beings the evidence is not so clear. Some scientific studies suggest that acrylamide may increase the risk of cancer in humans, but others completely deny it. It is very much possible that researchers get mixed results in humans because it is no easy task to find out how much acrylamide is there in people’s diets. And there is a huge difference in the rates at which rodents and humans absorb and metabolize acrylamide. Since acrylamide increases the risk of cancer in rodents, it is listed as a possible carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an agency that’s part of the World Health Organization.

As a result of this listing, the Council for Education and Research on Toxics (a California non-profit group) has taken legal action against several companies that make or sell coffee, including Starbucks, 7-Eleven and BP, according to CNN. But one think you can always keep in mind while having coffee is that never drink piping hot coffee as it has been linked to oesophageal cancer as per the reports of IARC.

Now let’s have a look at some of the great benefits of coffee according to researchers:

  • Coffee is good for your liver and reduces the risk of heart attacks.
  • It might boost female sex drive (among those who are not habitual users).
  • Moderate consumption (2 cups) of coffee can help in reducing post-gym muscle pain (among those who don’t consume coffee regularly).