Despite caffeine’s potential health benefits, some people find that it causes nervousness, insomnia and restlessness, so they opt for decaffeinated coffee instead. The act of removing most of the caffeine from coffee, however, changes its effect on your health. Some methods of caffeine extraction from the coffee beans can lead to health issues. Getting to know the health effects linked to decaf consumption can help you decide if decaf is right for your well-being.
Decaffeinated coffee is not completely caffeine-free, as it has at least 97 percent of the caffeine removed. If you drink 5 to 10 cups of decaf coffee, you could get the same amount of caffeine content as 1 or 2 cups of regular coffee, depending on the strength, according to Bruce Goldberger, who is a professor and director of the University of Florida's William R. Maples Center for Forensic Medicine. Drinking a lot of decaffeinated coffee can produce caffeine-induced changes to your energy levels or behavior, which should concern those who assume they're partaking in a caffeine-free diet.
Studies have linked decaffeinated coffee consumption to harmful increases in blood cholesterol levels, which can contribute to the risk of heart disease. Researchers observed the changes in heart health in those individuals who drank 3 to 6 cups of caffeinated coffee, while another group drank the same amount of decaffeinated coffee. The study found that those who drank decaffeinated coffee had an 18 percent increase of fatty acids in the blood. This, in turn, can raise the level of low-density lipoproteins, or “bad” cholesterol. High levels of LDLs contribute to arterial blockage and heart disease. These results are unlikely to affect those who consume a moderate amount of 1 or 2 cups of decaffeinated coffee daily, states Dr. Robert Superko of the Fuqua Heart Center in Atlanta.
Drinking coffee, whether caffeinated or decaffeinated, can help cut the risk of getting type-2 diabetes. The “Archives of Internal Medicine” published a systematic review in 2009 of about seven studies that looked at the effects of decaffeinated coffee and diabetes. The results show that decaffeinated coffee consumption is associated with a reduced risk of diabetes. Decaffeinated coffee, however, is less effective than regular coffee in preventing diabetes, states the Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide. Coffee with caffeine will increase your resting metabolic rate more than decaf, which contributes to the reduced diabetes risk.
Coffee’s antioxidants may be responsible for some of the health benefits associated with the beverage. Some concerns exist, however, about the methods used to remove caffeine from the coffee beans to make decaf, such as using methylene chloride, which may increase the risk of cancer. This method may also be responsible for the cardiovascular risk associated with decaf consumption. Opt for decaf that has been water-processed, which is known as the “Swiss water process,” to ensure that the decaf process has not used any harmful chemicals in removing the caffeine. Decaf has the same nutrients as regular coffee.