Longtime readers know that I love coffee…
So I was happy to hear the ruling this summer by the Nanny Police… the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)… finally removing coffee from the list of known cancer-causing agents, or carcinogens.
As I’ve said before, there’s simply no proven connection between coffee and cancer.
What’s interesting is that the real culprit could be high temperature.
The IARC stated that drinks that are 149 degrees F or hotter when consumed can cause esophageal cancer.
Many folks grab their coffee from places like Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, and McDonald’s… where the temperature might be too hot by default.
For example, Starbucks typically serves drinks in the 145-165 degree range. Some folks even ask for “extra hot” drinks that go all the way to about 180 degrees.
The IARC conducted studies across the world. They found strong associations between hot beverages and esophageal cancer in South America, East Africa, and parts of Asia. All these places had a high number of folks who drank very hot teas. For instance, in South America, people enjoy the popular drink maté at about 158 degrees.
One of the scientists working on the review at the IARC, Mariana Stern, told interviewers at LiveScience that too-hot beverages can burn the lining of the throat the same way they would skin.
Burns damage cells. The body then generates new cells to replace them… And these new cells could have mutations that lead to cancer. Basically, whenever you damage and replace cells over and over, there’s a higher chance of developing cancer.
A study from the University of Western Australia demonstrated this when researchers observed male and female burn victims from both Australia and Scotland. Women with burns experienced a much higher cancer rate during the 25-year study.
In addition, whenever you burn yourself, you injure that tissue. It feels red and painful because your body is fighting the damage. That redness is inflammation… which also causes problems like heart disease and cancer over time.
Before you decide to throw out your coffee pot, there’s an important point most folks ignore…
The IARC put hot beverages in the 2A carcinogen group… the same group that it added red meat to last year. (You should know how I feel about that.)
The 2A designation means they think it may cause cancer, but the research in humans is limited. That means there’s so much we don’t know… For instance, we don’t know how much you have to consume to damage your throat, and so on. Really, we think the association is there, but we need more human studies to back it up.
However, based on what we know of burned skin and cancer, plus the role of inflammation and cancer, it’s good to guard against damage from extra-hot liquids.
For example, I don’t drive around with hot coffee near my lap because I know how hot it can be. Use that same common sense and let your coffee or tea cool off some before enjoying it.
Here are a few good tips to get it to cool down…
1) Wait a few minutes to drink your coffee. Usually about five to 10 minutes allows the coffee enough time to cool. Depending on the temperature outside, you can enjoy your drink on a walk, too, as it cools off in the air.
2) Lower the temperature. Many folks I know add a few ice cubes to hot coffee to drink it faster. And some places like Starbucks allow you to request lower temperatures on your drinks (try asking for 140 degrees).
3) Add milk. We’ve got the Brits to thank for this research. According to a study from Queen Victoria Hospital, adding 10mL (about 2 tsp) of cold milk to piping hot tea (usually brewed at about 200 degrees) lowers the temperature safely below 149 degrees in five minutes.
Whatever you do, don’t give up your favorite beverage…
As you know, we’ve recommended coffee many times for its health benefits. It reduces inflammation, lowers your risk of liver cancer, and protects your heart. And I also like green tea for its cancer-killing abilities.
Just take a few moments to cool your drink a bit before enjoying.
What We’re Reading…
- A handy chart for brewing tea at the right temperature.
- Check out the bullets of the IARC’s research.
- Something different: Explore the 124 miles of ancient tunnels below this German city.