Coffee is one of the world's most popular beverages.
The nutritional value of decaf coffee should be almost identical to regular coffee, apart from the caffeine content. Photo credit: Shutterstock
Many people enjoy drinking coffee, but want to limit their caffeine intake for some reason.
For these people, decaf coffee is an excellent alternative.
Decaf coffee is just like regular coffee, except the caffeine has been removed.
This article takes a detailed look at decaf coffee and its health effects, both good and bad.
What is Decaf Coffee and How is it Made?
Decaf is short for decaffeinated coffee.
It is coffee from coffee beans that have had at least 97 percent of their caffeine removed.
There are many ways to remove caffeine from coffee beans. Most of them include water, organic solvents or carbon dioxide (1).
Coffee beans are washed in the solvent until the caffeine has been extracted into it, then the solvent is removed.
The beans are decaffeinated before they are roasted and ground. The nutritional value of decaf coffee should be almost identical to regular coffee, apart from the caffeine content.
However, the taste and smell may become a little milder and the color may change, depending on the method used (1).
This can make decaf coffee more pleasing to those who are sensitive to the bitter taste and smell of regular coffee.
Bottom Line: Decaf coffee beans are washed in solvents to remove 97 percent of the caffeine content prior to roasting. Aside from the caffeine, the nutritional value of decaf coffee should be almost identical to that of regular coffee.
How Much Caffeine is in Decaf Coffee?
Decaf coffee is not completely caffeine free.
It actually contains varying amounts of caffeine, usually about 3 mg per cup (2).
One study found that each cup (6 oz or 180 ml) of decaf contained 0–7 mg of caffeine (3).
On the other hand, an average cup of regular coffee contains about 70–140 mg of caffeine, depending on coffee type, preparation method and cup size (4).
So, even if decaf is not completely caffeine free, the amount of caffeine is usually very small.
Bottom Line: Decaf coffee is not caffeine free, as each cup contains about 0–7 mg. However, this is much less than the amount found in regular coffee.
Decaf Coffee is Loaded With Antioxidants and Contains Nutrients
Coffee is not the devil it has been made out to be.
This difference is most likely caused by a small loss of antioxidants during the decaffeination process.
Antioxidants are very effective at neutralizing reactive compounds called free radicals.
In addition to the antioxidants, decaf also contains minor amounts of some nutrients.
This may not seem like a lot of nutrients, but the amounts add up quickly if you drink 2-3 (or more) cups of coffee per day.
Bottom Line: Decaf coffee contains similar amounts of antioxidants as regular coffee. These include mainly chlorogenic acid and other polyphenols. Decaf coffee also contains small amounts of several nutrients.
Health Benefits of Decaf Coffee
Despite having been demonized in the past, the truth is that coffee is mostly good for you.
It is linked with numerous health benefits, which are mainly attributed to its antioxidant content and other active substances.
However, the specific health effects of decaf coffee can be hard to determine.
This is because most studies assess coffee intake without distinguishing between regular and decaf coffee and some don't even include decaf coffee.
Also, most of these studies are observational. They cannot prove that coffee caused the benefits, only that drinking coffee is associated with them.
Type 2 Diabetes, Liver Function and Premature Death
This suggests that elements other than caffeine may be responsible for these protective effects (23).
The effects of decaf coffee on liver function are not as well studied as those of regular coffee. However, one large observational study linked decaf coffee with reduced liver enzyme levels, which suggests a protective effect (24).
Drinking decaf coffee has also been linked with a small but significant reduction in the risk of premature death, as well as death from stroke or heart disease (25).
Bottom Line: Decaf coffee may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. It may also reduce the risk of premature death.
Aging and Neurodegenerative Diseases
Both regular and decaf coffee seem to have positive effects on age-related mental decline (26).
One study suggests that this may be due to the chlorogenic acid in coffee, rather than caffeine. However, caffeine itself has also been linked to a reduced risk of dementia and neurodegenerative diseases (27, 29, 30, 31).
Many studies show that people who drink regular coffee have a lower risk of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, but more studies are needed on decaf specifically.
Bottom Line: Decaf coffee may protect against age-related mental decline. It may also reduce the risk of diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
Reduced Symptoms of Heartburn and Reduced Risk of Rectal Cancer
One common side effect of drinking coffee is heartburn or acid reflux.
Bottom Line: Decaf coffee causes significantly less acid reflux than regular coffee. Drinking more than two cups a day may also reduce the risk of rectal cancer.
Regular Coffee Has Several Advantages Over Decaf
Coffee is probably best known for its stimulant effects.
It increases alertness and reduces feelings of tiredness.
These effects are directly linked to the stimulant caffeine, which is found naturally in coffee.
Some of the beneficial effects of regular coffee are directly attributed to the caffeine, so decaf should not have these effects.
Here are some benefits that probably only apply to regular coffee, not decaf:
- Improved mood, reaction time, memory and mental function (36, 37, 38).
- Increased metabolic rate and fat burning (39, 40, 41).
- Enhanced athletic performance (42, 43, 44, 45).
- Reduced risk of mild depression and suicidal thoughts in women (46, 47).
- Much lower risk of liver cirrhosis or end-stage liver damage (48, 49, 50).
However, it is worth mentioning again that the research on regular coffee is way more extensive than what is available for decaf.
Bottom Line: Regular coffee provides many health benefits that do not apply to decaf. These include improved mental health, increased metabolic rate, enhanced athletic performance and a lower risk of liver damage.
Who Should Choose Decaf Over Regular Coffee?
There is a lot of individual variability when it comes to tolerance for caffeine.
For some people, one cup of coffee can be excessive, while for others this may be six or more cups.
Excess caffeine may overwhelm the central nervous system, cause restlessness, anxiety, digestive problems, heart arrhythmia or trouble sleeping in sensitive individuals.
People who are very sensitive to caffeine may want to limit their intake of regular coffee, or switch over to decaf or tea.
Those with certain medical conditions may also require caffeine-restricted diets. This includes patients taking prescription medications that can interact with caffeine (3).
Additionally, pregnant and breastfeeding women are advised to limit their caffeine intake. Children, adolescents and individuals suffering from anxiety or trouble sleeping are advised to do so as well (51).
Bottom Line: Decaf may be a good alternative to regular coffee for people who are caffeine sensitive. Pregnant women, adolescents and individuals taking certain medications may also want to choose decaf over regular.
Take Home Message
Coffee is one of the healthiest beverages on the planet.
It is loaded with antioxidants and linked to reduced risk of all sorts of serious diseases.
However, not everyone can drink coffee, because the caffeine can cause problems in some individuals.
For these people, decaf is an excellent way to enjoy coffee, except without the side effects of too much caffeine.
Decaf has most of the same health benefits, but none of the side effects.
This article was reposted from our media associate Authority Nutrition.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Yellowstone Grizzlies Win Reprieve From Trophy Hunt as Court Restores Endangered Species Protections
- Wyoming Votes to Allow First Grizzly Bear Hunt in 40 Years ... ›
- British Columbia Bans Grizzly Bear Trophy Hunting - EcoWatch ›
- Good News for Yellowstone Grizzlies? U.S. to Review 'Flawed ... ›
- Judge Blocks First Yellowstone-Area Grizzly Hunt in 40 Years ... ›
By Alexandra Rowles
Oregano is a fragrant herb that's best known as an ingredient in Italian food.
However, it can also be concentrated into an essential oil that's loaded with antioxidants and powerful compounds that have proven health benefits.
- Essential Oils: 7 Common Questions Answered - EcoWatch ›
- 9 Ways to Boost Your Immune System - EcoWatch ›
- 15 Impressive Herbs with Antiviral Activity - EcoWatch ›
- Brazil Using Pandemic as Smokescreen for New Attacks on the ... ›
- In 'Totalitarian' Move, Brazil's Bolsonaro Removes Death and Case ... ›
- Brazil Passes 50,000 Coronavirus Deaths as Global Cases Top 9 ... ›
By Emily Grubert
Natural gas is a versatile fossil fuel that accounts for about a third of U.S. energy use. Although it produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants than coal or oil, natural gas is a major contributor to climate change, an urgent global problem. Reducing emissions from the natural gas system is especially challenging because natural gas is used roughly equally for electricity, heating, and industrial applications.
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="6bd9fda1316965a9ba24dd60fd9cc34d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/3KaMnkmf0tc?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
What RNG Is and Why it Matters<p>Most equipment that uses energy can only use a single kind of fuel, but the fuel might come from different resources. For example, you can't charge your computer with gasoline, but it can run on electricity generated from coal, natural gas or solar power.</p><p>Natural gas is almost pure methane, <a href="https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/natural-gas/" target="_blank">currently sourced</a> from raw, fossil natural gas produced from <a href="https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/natural-gas/where-our-natural-gas-comes-from.php" target="_blank">deposits deep underground</a>. But methane could come from renewable resources, too.</p><p><span></span>Two main methane sources could be used to make RNG. First is <a href="https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/inventory-us-greenhouse-gas-emissions-and-sinks" target="_blank">biogenic methane</a>, produced by bacteria that digest organic materials in manure, landfills and wastewater. Wastewater treatment plants, landfills and dairy farms have captured and used biogenic methane as an energy resource for <a href="http://emilygrubert.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/eia_860_2017_map.html" target="_blank">decades</a>, in a form usually called <a href="https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/biomass/landfill-gas-and-biogas.php" target="_blank">biogas</a>.</p><p>Some biogenic methane is generated naturally when organic materials break down without oxygen. Burning it for energy can be beneficial for the climate if doing so prevents methane from escaping to the atmosphere.</p>
Renewable Isn’t Always Sustainable<p>If RNG could be a renewable replacement for fossil natural gas, why not move ahead? Consumers have shown that they are <a href="https://www.nrel.gov/analysis/green-power.html" target="_blank">willing to buy renewable electricity</a>, so we might expect similar enthusiasm for RNG.</p><p>The key issue is that methane isn't just a fuel – it's also a <a href="https://www.eia.gov/environment/emissions/ghg_report/ghg_overview.php" target="_blank">potent greenhouse gas</a> that contributes to climate change. Any methane that is manufactured intentionally, whether from biogenic or other sources, will contribute to climate change if it enters the atmosphere.</p><p>And <a href="http://doi.org/10.1126/science.aar7204" target="_blank">releases</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wasman.2019.07.029" target="_blank">will happen</a>, from newly built production systems and <a href="https://theconversation.com/why-methane-emissions-matter-to-climate-change-5-questions-answered-122684" target="_blank">existing, leaky transportation and user infrastructure</a>. For example, the moment you smell gas before the pilot light on a stove lights the ring? That's methane leakage, and it contributes to climate change.</p><p>To be clear, RNG is almost certainly better for the climate than fossil natural gas because byproducts of burning RNG won't contribute to climate change. But doing somewhat better than existing systems is no longer enough to respond to the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2923" target="_blank">urgency</a> of climate change. The world's <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/chapter/spm/" target="_blank">primary international body on climate change</a> suggests we need to decarbonize by 2030 to mitigate the worst effects of climate change.</p>
Scant Climate Benefits<p><a href="https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/ab9335/meta" target="_blank">My recent research</a> suggests that for a system large enough to displace a lot of fossil natural gas, RNG is probably not as good for the climate as <a href="https://investor.southerncompany.com/information-for-investors/latest-news/latest-news-releases/press-release-details/2020/Southern-Company-Gas-grows-leadership-team-to-focus-on-climate-action-innovation-and-renewable-natural-gas-strategy/default.aspx" target="_blank">is publicly claimed</a>. Although RNG has lower climate impact than its fossil counterpart, likely high demand and methane leakage mean that it probably will contribute to climate change. In contrast, renewable sources such as wind and solar energy do not <a href="https://www.eia.gov/environment/emissions/carbon/" target="_blank">emit climate pollution directly</a>.</p><p>What's more, creating a large RNG system would require building mostly new production infrastructure, since RNG comes from different sources than fossil natural gas. Such investments are both long-term commitments and opportunity costs. They would devote money, political will and infrastructure investments to RNG instead of alternatives that could achieve a zero greenhouse gas emission goal.</p><p>When climate change first <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/1988/06/24/us/global-warming-has-begun-expert-tells-senate.html" target="_blank">broke into the political conversation</a> in the late 1980s, investing in long-lived systems with low but non-zero greenhouse gas emissions was still compatible with aggressive climate goals. Now, zero greenhouse gas emissions is the target, and my research suggests that large deployments of RNG likely won't meet that goal.</p>
- Solar Employs More Workers Than Coal, Oil and Natural Gas ... ›
- The Truth About Natural Gas: A 'Green' Bridge to Hell - EcoWatch ›
- Why Natural Gas Is a Bridge Fuel to Nowhere - EcoWatch ›
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently issued a list of 431 products that are effective at killing viruses when they are on surfaces. Now, a good year for Lysol manufacturer Reckitt Benckiser just got better when the EPA said that two Lysol products are among the products that can kill the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
- Here's How to Clean Your Groceries During the COVID-19 Outbreak ... ›
- EPA Warns Against Fake Coronavirus Cleaners - EcoWatch ›
- What to Do if There's a Disinfectant Shortage in Your Area - EcoWatch ›
For all its posturing on climate change, the Democratic Party has long been weak on the actual policies we need to save us from extinction. President Barack Obama promised his presidency would mark "the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow," and then embraced natural gas, a major driver of global temperature rise, as a "bridge fuel." Climate legislation passed in the House in 2009 would have allowed industries to buy credits to pollute, a practice known to concentrate toxic air in black and brown neighborhoods while doing little to cut emissions.
- Trump Neglects Climate Change in State of the Union While ... ›
- House Democrats Hold First Climate Change Hearings in More ... ›
- If the Democratic Party Is Serious About Climate Change, They Must ... ›
Bayer's $10 billion settlement to put an end to roughly 125,000 lawsuits against its popular weed killer Roundup, which contains glyphosate, hit a snag this week when a federal judge in San Francisco expressed skepticism over what rights future plaintiffs would have, as the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
- Judge Blocks California From Putting Cancer Warning on Roundup ... ›
- Bayer Settles Roundup Cancer Suits for Over $10 Billion - EcoWatch ›