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Functional Ingredients

Coffee’s not carcinogenic after all

In a rare reversal, the World Health Organization proclaimed coffee is not actually carcinogenic.

Coffee got a big pardon from the World Health Organization, — just don’t drink it too hot.
In 1991, the W.H.O.’s expert panel described java as “possibly carcinogenic,” in a category with diesel fuel and lead. Since then, a growing body of research revealed coffee’s link to lower rates of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, neurological disorders and several cancers. One study even suggested that drinking between three and five cups a day could lower the risk of premature death by up to 15 percent.
In its report, published in Lancet Oncology, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer said it had assembled a team of 23 international scientists who reviewed more than 1,000 studies, prompting the panel’s rare reversal. (FYI, they’re still recommending against lead-diesel cocktails.)
The report’s concerns about “very hot” beverages included mention of mate, a type of tea traditionally consumed in South America, the Middle East and some parts of Europe, often at high temperatures. The agency said that regular consumption of beverages hotter than 149 degrees Fahrenheit was “probably carcinogenic” based on a small number of studies showing a link between the practice and esophageal cancer.
One reason is that, over time, scalding hot beverages may injure cells that line the throat, setting the stage for rare cancers. The increased risk was seen in people who regularly drink their tea or mate at very high temperatures, typically at 158 degrees Fahrenheit or greater, Dana Loomis, the deputy head of the agency’s program that classifies carcinogens and the first author of the report told the New York Times. Most tea and coffee drinkers in the U.S. drink their brews below 140 Fahrenheit.


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