Is Instant Coffee Bad for Your Health?

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Instant coffee has obvious benefits: It's usually cheaper than ground or bean coffee, and it's quicker and easier to prepare. Not everything about instant coffee is good, though. For some people, the bitter taste of instant coffee cancels out the many benefits. When it comes to your health, instant coffee also has its pros and cons.

Instant Coffee and Cholesterol

Instant coffee has less cafestol than coffee made in a French press or Turkish coffee, according to Dr. Rob van Dam, assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health. Cafestol is a substance that can elevate cholesterol. Both instant coffee and filtered coffee prepared in an automatic coffeemaker contain very small amounts of cafestol. If you already have high cholesterol or a family history of heart disease, instant coffee is a better choice than French-press or Turkish coffee.

Toxic Compounds

Instant coffee is high in acrylamide, a chemical compound that has been shown to cause cancer in animals. According to the Food and Drug Administration, acrylamide can also cause nerve damage. Acrylamide happens naturally in certain foods during high-temperature heating. Because the presence of acrylamide in food wasn’t discovered until 2002, scientists still don’t know the full extent of its dangers. The amount of acrylamide is measured in ppb, or parts-per-billion. Certain brands and types of instant coffee have very high amounts, compared with ground coffee. One popular brand of instant coffee contains 458 ppb, compared to only 13 ppb in their traditional coffee variety.

Caffeine Content

Instant coffee is lower in caffeine than brewed coffee. That’s not true for all brands, but if you read labels, you might be able to find instant coffee with as little as 27 mg of caffeine per serving. A serving is usually 1 tsp. A cup of generic brewed coffee has a minimum of 95 mg of caffeine.

Hallucinations

A preliminary 2009 study by a Durham University team showed that people who drink seven cups or more of instant coffee a day are at a high risk of suffering hallucinations. This could be because caffeine increases the production of cortisone, a stress hormone. The study is not conclusive, and researchers plan to continue the study over several years to see how results stand the test of time.

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