For most people, the reason they brew a cup of coffee is to get that much-needed boost of caffeine, whether that’s first thing in the morning or midday. However, if you’re trying to limit how much caffeine you’re consuming on a daily basis, you may find yourself turning to decaf.
Contrary to popular belief, drinking decaffeinated coffee on the reg may actually do more harm than good, specifically over time. As Dr. William Li, physician, scientist, president and medical director of the Angiogenesis Foundation, and author of Eat To Beat Disease: The New Science of How Your Body Can Heal Itself pointed out to Eat This, Not That! before, the way in which decaf coffee is stripped of caffeine may persuade you otherwise.
“The beans are soaked in a chemical solvent that leaches out the caffeine,” Li said. “Some of the solvents are the same ones used in paint thinner or nail polish remover.” (Related: The One Vitamin Doctors Are Urging Everyone to Take Right Now.)
Unsurprisingly, methylene chloride, which is one of the main solvents used is approved by the FDA under certain conditions, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthy for you to ingest. It just means that it’s not toxic. Still, if you consume decaf coffee in large quantities over the course of several years, there could be consequences.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, exposure to methylene chloride (which is a colorless liquid) can injure the eyes, cause drowsiness, dizziness, and even tingling in the limbs. It was formerly used in paint removers for consumers before the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned it in 2019, however, the chemical may still be found however in certain degreasing and cleaning products. The extract of methylene chloride can still be found in many decaf coffee brands.
In an investigation, the Clean Label Project detected the chemical in major brands such as Maxwell House Decaffeinated The Original Roast coffee and Costco’s Kirkland Signature Decaffeinated Dark Roast coffee.
The trick to avoiding ingesting the chemical? Make sure to look for solvent- and chemical-free decaf coffee or a brand that clearly states it’s certified organic.
For more, be sure to check out 7 Incredible Fair Trade Products Everyone Should Buy.