6 Unexpected Side Effects Of Decaf Coffee You Probably Didn’t Know

Should you be making the switch back?

decaf coffee
Image by Annie Spratt via Unsplash

It’s fair to say that coffee, along with politics and religion, can divide dinner tables for real. Some people say it’s good for you (antioxidants, y’all), while others think it’s the devil in a frothy warm mug (or a glass with ice and a straw. We don’t discriminate). So who ya gonna believe?

Most people can agree that an excess of caffeine is never good for you, and if you do a bit of research on the subject, you’ll find a lot of sources recommending that you switch to decaf coffee so you can enjoy the drink without the side effects. But is that necessarily the answer?

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The decaffeination process usually involves the use of solvents that strip the coffee of the caffeine, but leave in as many of the other elements and chemicals of coffee that give it that beautiful, wholesome, comforting, couldn’t-live-without-it aroma and taste. (Just in case you couldn’t tell, I like coffee). 

But before you plunge head-first into a life less caffeinated, here are 6 unexpected side effects of decaf coffee that you really oughta know about:

1Interferes with nutrient absorption

This one isn’t unique to decaf, as studies have shown that decaf’s more energetic, caffeine-brimming big brother is guilty of this also. But coffee decreases the body’s ability to absorb iron, calcium, zinc and magnesium from food sources, which is far from ideal if you’re deficient in any of these nutrients.

2Adverse cardio-vascular effects

Not to alarm anyone here, but studies have shown that decaf coffee increases levels of LDL cholesterol, which is responsible for increasing your risk of heart disease, heart failure and heart attacks.

3Declining bone density

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Drinking decaf coffee increases metabolic acidity and is rumoured to interfere with healthy bone density. Excess acidity has been linked to negative calcium balance and increased excretion of calcium, and as you probs already know; calcium is essential for preventing osteoporosis and maintaining adequate bone density.

4Increased acidity in the body

Science tells us that coffee is highly acidic, and it stimulates excessive secretion of gastric acids. Decaf coffee is especially guilty of this, and over-consumption can quickly lead to ulcers, acid reflux, inflammatory bowel conditions, heartburn and urinary tract infections.

5Stimulates the sympathetic nervous system

So y’know how coffee makes a lot of people jittery as all hell? Turns out it might not just be an effect of the caffeine. Decaf coffee stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, which increases shaking, overstimulation and that seemingly inexplicable jumpiness.

6Greater risk of rheumatoid arthritis

Now this one is exclusive to decaf coffee. Drinking non-caffeinated coffee as opposed to regular coffee puts you at much greater risk of rheumatoid arthritis; an autoimmune disease characterised by painful inflammation of the joints and internal organs. According to a study of more than 31,336 women aged 55-69, women who reported consuming four or more cups of decaffeinated coffee a day were more than twice as likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis, compared to women who never drank decaf.

So if you’re looking for less coffee-ish coffee, why not try matcha, mushroom coffee, or throw caution to the wind with a blue algae latte, if you’re feeling adequately hipster?