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Caffeine is the most widely consumed drug in the world. Coffee addicts who switch to decaf for health reasons may not be as free from caffeine's clutches as they think.

Caffeine is the most widely consumed drug in the world. Coffee addicts who switch to decaf for health reasons may not be as free from caffeine's clutches as they think. A study conducted by the researchers of University of Florida put forth that decaffeinated coffee is not entirely caffeine-free. Also, it is important to understand that there are a number of significant chemical compounds present in coffee, other than caffeine, which also have strong effects on the body.

The common active constituents include chlorogenic acid, caffeol and diterpenes. Many health disorders that are aggravated by coffee are still affected by decaffeinated coffee, despite the lowered level of caffeine, due to these other phytochemicals that remain in decaf coffee even after the decaffeination process.

Health effects of decaf coffee

Decaf coffee increases acidity

Coffee is highly acidic and it can stimulate the hyper-secretion of gastric acids. Coffee creates more reflux than caffeine added to water, suggesting that other components of coffee contribute to its aggravating effect. Decaf coffee has been shown to increase acidity to a greater degree than either regular coffee or caffeine alone due to the fact that decaffeinated coffee is made from Robusta beans.
This in result aggravates health problems such as acid reflux, GERDS and ulcers making people susceptible to the detrimental effects of high levels of acidity. Decaf coffee consumption has also been associated with a greater incidence of heartburn than drinking any other fluids. Therefore, quitting coffee may reduce stomach problems that are associated with the high acidity of decaf coffee.

Decaf coffee increases cholesterol and heart attack risk

Several studies have shown that decaffeinated coffee raises the risk for heart attacks similar to regular coffee in spite of the lowered levels of caffeine. A U.S. National Institutes of Health study suggested that drinking decaffeinated coffee increased the risk of heart disease. This study showed that the group drinking decaffeinated coffee experienced an 18% rise in non-essential fatty acids in the blood, which can drive the production of LDL cholesterol and an 8% rise in apolipoprotein B - a protein associated with cholesterol linked to cardiovascular disease.

Levels of LDL cholesterol, a strong predictor for heart attacks, increase after coffee drinkers switch from regular coffee to decaf coffee. These finding suggests that a phytochemical present in coffee other than caffeine is responsible for the subsequent LDL cholesterol and apolipoprotein B activity.

The fact is that caffeinated and decaf coffees are known to be made from different beans. Decaf coffee is often made from Robusta beans, which contain a much higher content of fats called diterpenes. Diterpenes are known to stimulate fatty acid production in the body. Thus, decaf coffee has proved more harmful effects on the heart as compared to regular coffee. Coffee oils other than caffeine have also been demonstrated to elevate liver enzyme levels, further inhibiting the liver’s ability to effectively regulate serum cholesterol.

Also, chlorogenic acid is found in both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee. It is believed to raise plasma levels of homocysteine, which is associated with increased susceptibility of developing cardiovascular disease. Reducing intake of both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee may be important in controlling plasma homocysteine levels.

Decaf coffee may lead to osteoporosis

According to an osteoporosis expert of Creighton University in Omaha, there occurs a loss up to 5 milligrams of calcium for every six ounces of regular coffee that you drink. As little as 300 to 400 mg of caffeine a day doubles the risk of hip fracture.

Low bone density increases chances for developing osteoporosis. Metabolic acidity contributes to demineralization of the bones. The high acidity of decaf coffee increases the risk for developing osteoporosis. It alters bone cell function, increasing osteoclastic bone resorption and decreasing osteoblastic bone formation. Avoiding regular and decaf coffee and including 3-4 servings of calcium rich foods a day can reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis.

Decaf coffee leads to increased incidence of rheumatoid arthritis

Decaffeinated coffee intake is independently and positively associated with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) onset. According to researchers from the American College of Rheumatology, older women who drink four or more cups of decaffeinated coffee a day are more than twice as likely to develop RA as regular coffee drinkers. Moreover, drinking more than 3 cups of tea per day is actually associated with decreased risk of developing RA.

Decaf coffee increases risk of glaucoma

Caffeine consumption may be harmful to people with glaucoma because it increases pressure within the eyeball. While caffeinated coffee more significantly increases intraocular pressure, decaffeinated coffee also causes a rise in levels of pressure within the eye. People at risk for developing glaucoma and those who already suffer from glaucoma should avoid anything that further increases intraocular pressure to avoid damaging their eyes.

Link to cancer and organ damage 

The decaffeinated coffee is likely to contain the solvent methylene chloride that is used to remove caffeine from coffee. This process leaves small amounts of this chemical in the beans. Methylene chloride is a proven carcinogenic that is toxic to lungs, the nervous system, liver, mucous membranes, and central nervous system (CNS). Repeated or prolonged exposure to the substance can produce target organs damage.  Ethyl acetate is an alternate solvent used to extract caffeine. As this chemical is in low quantities found naturally in fruit, companies often market coffee decaffeinated using this process as naturally decaffeinated. However, this is a chemical with serious health consequences.

Kicking the decaf coffee habit

The health risks of decaffeinated coffee have been studied, with varying results. People most often switch from caffeinated to decaffeinated coffee due to a desire to improve their health. But for people with a number of existing health conditions, drinking decaffeinated coffee may not necessarily provide the desired health benefits. Current studies suggest that, for people who are sensitive to the effects of coffee, decaffeinated brews may still exacerbate their health problems. Therefore, the healthiest option may be to eliminate both regular and decaffeinated coffee from the diet.