Unfortunately, there are still problems with drinking even decaf, including the fact that by law up to 2.5% of the caffeine is allowed to remain in order for a product to be labeled "decaffeinated".
Let's start with the 4 methods of decaffeination that are used.
- Chemical removal using methylene chloride
- Chemical removal using ethyl acetate
- The Swiss Method (Water extraction)
- The use of carbon dioxide
Chemical removal of the caffeine from unroasted beans begins warming the beans in steam or even hot water which opens the pores of the beans. They are rinsed in methylene chloride (said to be a carcinogen) to bind the caffeine only to then be flushed away.
Ethyl acetate processed products are referred to as "naturally decaffeinated" because ethyl acetate is a chemical found naturally in many fruits. Caffeine is extracted in the same way as with methylene chloride processing, except that ethyl acetate is the solvent.
The Swiss method is a completely different process, and more expensive. It soaks the beans in hot water for several hours, and then filters the water through activated charcoal to remove the caffeine.
To decaffeinate using carbon dioxide (CO2), water-softened materials are "pressure cooked" with the gas. This method retains the flavor of the coffee better.
So far so good; except, of course, for the potential health consequence of using these solvents.
Here's an interesting fact, according to an ezinearticle: "...the taste difference is less likely to come from the presence or absence of caffeine as from any remaining processing chemicals and whether they removed flavor-producing elements."
Let's just hope they do a really good job of rinsing those chemicals off!
According to a 3 month study presented at the American Heart Association, Scientific Sessions, "Decaffeinated coffee increased fatty acids in the blood that fuel production of LDL (bad cholesterol)." This study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the first non-industry funded study of its kind.
Why is this important? Because there is a much better chance for honest objectivity when the funding doesn't come from a company that makes money from the product being evaluated!
Decaffeinated coffee beans contain the same acidic level as regular coffee beans. This overstimulates the digestive tract and causes laxative-like responses. It also prevents the body from absorbing various minerals, such as iron, calcium and magnesium.
Decaf coffee can still induce heartburn and acid reflux, and still poses the threat of developing diseases like osteoporosis and glaucoma.
It is so much healthier for your body to drink pure water or a healthy smoothie!