Coffee science: It’s still not settled

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An announcement last week probably caused many eyes to open wide and more than a few to mutter strong words under their breath.

Yes, according to some scientists there is a chemical in coffee that might cause cancer.

The substance in question is acrylamide and, no, we hadn’t heard of it either. But the federal government says it’s toxic. It has industrial uses but can occur naturally in some foods that are roasted or fried at high temperatures — including french fries, potato chips and yes, coffee.

Now, no one knows for sure how much of the stuff you would have to consume for it to actually cause cancer or even put someone at risk. One study suggests at least 500 times normal levels consumed in a day to even have any harmful effects. But you know scientists and governments. The tiniest of risk is the first step to disaster.

So much so that in California — where else? — a judge ruled last month that coffee must now carry a warning label. But then again what doesn’t in California?

We doubt such a thing will happen around here anytime soon. And we doubt it would make much of a difference even if it did.

People are passionate about many different things but coffee is near the top of the list. Millions of Americans — even some in our newsroom — can’t even think about starting the day without a strong cup of joe.

Besides, science has told us for years coffee has health benefits. It decreases the risk of depression, helps with cognitive function and may even help fight Parkinson’s disease, diabetes and liver cancer.

The risk-reward ratio looks pretty good to us.

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