Q. I have read reports that coffee is good for health. I cannot consume caffeine. Does decaf coffee have any health benefits?
A. Judith C. Thalheimer, RDN, LND, managing editor of Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter, answers: “Caffeine is only one of the more than 1,000 bioactive compounds found in coffee. Many of these compounds may have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, or anticancer properties. An umbrella analysis designed to assess results of all of the existing evidence on the effects of coffee consumption on health published in the BMJ in 2017 concluded that consumption of both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee was associated with lower risk of death from all causes. The analysis found that both decaf and regular coffee were associated with lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes and lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, but caffeinated coffee was more strongly associated with lower cancer risk than decaffeinated coffee.
“If you enjoy coffee but can’t tolerate caffeine, rest assured that you are still getting beneficial compounds from your cup of decaf. If you don’t enjoy coffee, the potential health benefits are not a good enough reason to force it down. One note of caution: all coffee drinkers should avoid the large amounts of sweeteners and cream that often go into store-bought coffee drinks (as well as the pastries and cookies that sometimes accompany that cup of Joe).”