Coffee drinkers shouldn’t feel bad if they’re confused whether drinking coffee is good or bad for them.
There are hundreds of studies out there that give mixed reviews on the health benefits or detrimental effects of one of the most popular beverages in the world.
Now, there’s something new to think about while sipping that morning brew.
After reviewing more than 1,000 human and animal studies on coffee, the cancer research arm of the World Health Organization (WHO) has found no conclusive evidence that drinking coffee causes cancer.
In fact, Dana Loomis, Ph.D., deputy head of WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), says studies show coffee drinkers have reduced risks of liver and uterine cancers.
“People who drink coffee have lower risk of cancer than those who do not,” he told reporters Wednesday.
In 1991, WHO classified coffee drinking as “possibly carcinogenic to humans,” but now it’s classified as “not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity to humans.”
In simpler terms, the research shows coffee drinking isn’t an independent risk factor for developing cancer.
It’s not every day that WHO moves a substance from one safety designation to another.
“It’s not the first time, but it happens seldom,” Loomis said.
Besides coffee, yerba mate — a tea made with the leaves of the yerba mate tree — received a noncarcinogenic rating from WHO.
There is, however, one aspect of these popular beverages that can raise a person’s risk for cancer, besides the sweeteners added to them.
Water Temperature May Raise Cancer Risk
WHO officials determined it’s the temperatures at which beverages are drunk, rather than what’s brewed with the water.
Christopher Wild, Ph.D., director of the IARC, said studies show drinking “very hot” beverages is one probable cause of esophageal cancer, which is why very hot beverages are now classified as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”
“Very hot” is defined as beverages consumed above 70 degrees Celsius, or 158 degrees Fahrenheit.
This relates to all beverages, but of particular concern to yerba mate, which is typically consumed at high temperatures. Areas of the world where high rates of esophageal cancer are related to drinking hot beverages include parts of Asia, South America, and East Africa.
Ideally, WHO experts say, beverages should be consumed below 65 degrees Celsius, or 149 degrees Fahrenheit.
The National Coffee Association (NCA) recommends coffee should be at 195 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit.
With the WHO findings, it’s probably best to let it cool down before you drink it.
Other Important Concerns
Before you start chugging down another café latte in celebration of coffee’s clean bill of health, take into consideration all the other things in your drink besides hot water and coffee beans.
Coffee, of course, contains caffeine, which can cause a person to be anxious or exacerbate heart problems. Black coffee can also be tough on your stomach or promote acid reflux.
Other things added to it — including cream, sugar, and other sweeteners — could take a seemingly healthy beverage and raise the risk for numerous diseases, including obesity and diabetes.
For example, a 16-ounce Starbucks Caffé Vanilla Frappuccino contains 400 calories, 11 grams of fat, and 69 grams of sugar.
A plain black coffee of the same size has 5 calories, no fat, and no sugar.
That’s a little bit easier for your body to stomach.