Coffee and Gluten: My Current Take

19 Jun

Greetings everyone, it’s been a few days since I’ve posted anything.  On the twitterverse the last few days there has been a great deal of talk about coffee and it’s apparent “danger” particularly with respects to possible gluten related sensitivity.  I love coffee, and I hate to see it get a bad name.  So, lets look at this a little more carefully.

First lets look at the source of this information.  Well, the problem is, there is no real source!  A chiropractor published information form “internal lab research” that 10% of coffee is a protein that cross reacts with gluten antibodies.  That is all the information we have.  I see no research study, no detailed information such as what type of coffee was tested, how it was tested, or how they connect this information to clinical implications.  How many coffees were tested etc?  I did a quick search on for “coffee and gluten” and I got zero hits.  So basically we have an “expert” stating his findings, and no actual data backing up his claims.  I would be vary wary of accepting this kind of statement as fact until we see more information.  Hopefully more detailed information will come soon, until then I will keep drinking my java.

I would like to note that after a quick we search on google, I was able to find the following organizations who have declared coffee gluten free:

-The Celiac Sprue Association

-The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness

-The University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center

-The Mayo Clinic

Please check the labels of your coffee as not all are gluten free due to processing conditions.  That said, most are clearly labeled if they contain no gluten or gluten byproducts.

Now, is coffee bad for you?  Let’s look at some research with coffee that tells us that the stuff is actually good for us!

-Drinking one to five cups of coffee per day reduces your risk of having a stroke by as much as 25 percent. (Susanna C. Larsson, et al. “Coffee Consumption and Risk of Stroke in Women.” Stroke: American Heart Association Journals, 119, 1116-1123.)

-Women who drink four cups of coffee per day are 20 percent less likely to be clinically depressed than women who drink only one cup of coffee per week. (Michael Lucas, et al. “Coffee, Caffeine, and Risk of Depression Among Women.”  Archives of Internal Medicine, 171 (17), 1571-1578.)

-People who drink more than six cups of coffee per day are 35 percent less likely to have type 2 diabetes than people who drink fewer than two cups of coffee per day. (Rob van Dam and Hu, Frank. “Coffee Consumption and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes.”  Journal of the American Medical Association, 294 (1), 97-104.)

-A Harvard School of Public Health study shows that men who drink six cups of coffee a day have a 60 percent decreased chance of developing a dangerous form of prostate cancer, as well as a 20 percent decreased chance of developing any other kinds of prostate cancer. (Journal of National Cancer Institute)

-Drinking a few cups of coffee a day could lower the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease by as much as 25 percent, according to a study published last year in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. (Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease)

-Coffee moderately reduces the incidence of dying from cardiovascular disease (Lopez-Garcia et al. The Relationship of Coffee Consumption with Mortality” Annals of Internal Medicine 2008

-Coffee consumption found to be inversely associated with total and cause-specific mortality.  Freedman et al. Association of Coffee Drinking with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality. New England Journal of Medicine 2012

JAMA, Archives of Internal Medicine, Stroke, New England Journal of Medicine…we are talking heavy hitters here.  It is very, very hard to get research published in these peer-reviewed journals.  You can never believe everything you read, but starting with a well respected source is always comforting.

Now please understand, I am not discounting the above claims of cross-reactivity of 1/10 of coffee to gluten, I just cannot be convinced without any further evidence.  As in all things, you need to weight the good with the bad when making food choices.  As long as we have a wealth of solid clinical data showing the multiple health benefits of coffee I would be slow to stop drinking based on one article presented without evidence.

Think of it this way; If a drug company released “internal lab data” claiming it’s drug superior to another, and left it at that, would you believe it?  They could of course be right, but why not provide more information to help people make more informed decisions.  Without this information it leaves too many questions unanswered to change your behavior.  Including information about the specialty lab which can test you for this condition also should concern us for an underlying connection between the source and the proprietary reference lab.

The world of medical information changes daily, and the internet makes this information spread like wild fire in only a few days time.  When presented with information, particularly information pertaining to your health, always take a step back and examine the source, the credibility of the source, and any information contrary to that which is being presented.

My mind will always remain open, and it may change concerning coffee and gluten if more definitive clinical data is presented strong enough to change my mind.  For now though I see no scientifically based reason to stop drinking coffee.  In fact, I see a great deal of scientific evidence that I should probably drink more!

Yes you are right, a nice hot cup sounds pretty good right about now!



Posted by on June 19, 2012 in General Paleo Discussion


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16 responses to “Coffee and Gluten: My Current Take

  1. Ann

    June 19, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    I’ve given up a lot of foods this past year seeking better health, BUT–

    I’ll give up my coffee when they pry it from my cold, dead hands….

  2. Douglas Ambeau

    June 19, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    I gave up half and half and sugar in mine, but I refuse to start my day without at least one cup.

  3. artzent

    June 19, 2012 at 4:36 pm

    I drink plenty of coffee and always have. Maybe it helps with disease because it helps you get off your butt and move! Take a look at my profile picture. Bet that you cannot guess the age of this coffee drinker!

  4. Eugenia

    June 19, 2012 at 8:26 pm

    Oh, come on. While there might not be a gluten connection, coffee is not a good thing to drink. There is one thing to do to know if coffee is good for you or not: stop drinking it for a week. If you’re a heavy drinker (more than 2 cups a day), you will get severe headaches. This is NOT normal. If I cut down meat or carrots completely, I don’t get that reaction. I will lose nutrients OVER TIME, but it won’t be like I’m trying to cut down an addiction. The fact that coffee is so obviously addictive, makes it unhealthy to me, from the get go. It’s a sure fire point blank clue.

    No matter what Robb Wolf says just because he likes coffee and he refuses to let it go.

    • erniegarcia76

      June 20, 2012 at 9:34 am

      It has been clinically proven that people get physiologically “addicted” to exercise due to the release of endorphins it brings about. Once addicted, they experience significant withdrawals from missing just one day of exercise. Using your argument, exercise can surely not be good for you. Just like exercise, coffee has health benefits beyond the risk of addiction.

      Also, is it possible that some substances or behaviors have evolved into being addictive because they are good for us? Now I’m not at all trying to make this argument for coffee, rather just throwing it out there as a general evolutionary possibility.

      Thanks for reading the blog and interacting!

    • Petros Constantopoulos

      June 20, 2012 at 9:56 am

      robb wolf doesn’t claim its good.. he acknowledges its not optimal but its a luxury that in the cost/benefit analysis doesn’t get cut out of his diet

  5. Lynn

    June 20, 2012 at 8:05 am

    I started a dietary cleanse to reduce inflammation and leaky gut about 5 weeks ago. At that time, I had to give up caffeine. I thought it was going to be the hardest part of the whole journey but you know what, as of yesterday I COULD add it back in but haven’t. I really do not feel like I want to do so. I am finding that I do not need my morning coffee and I am functioning quite well without it. Now, I know I will probably add it back in at some point but for now I appreciate that the freeing feeling that I am not relying on the coffee.

    • JessD

      June 26, 2012 at 11:36 pm

      I agree with you Lynn. I find that drinking lots of water throughout the day, and eating healthy (paleo/low-carb) keeps me just as awake & alert. I still enjoy coffee (usually decaf) sparingly, but more like one cup a couple times a week. Or I drink tea instead. No need to be so excessive about coffee (as in several cups every single day).

  6. datingwithoutgluten

    June 22, 2012 at 8:44 pm

    Some coffee companies are claiming that there is possibly gluten in their product because the coffee beans “could” be transported in the same trucks as wheat was transported in previously, thereby contaminating the beans. I received this answer from Folgers once.

  7. NoGlutenEver

    June 23, 2012 at 11:35 am

    If you think coffee is bothering you, you can try another brand or you can wash the coffee beans and brew your own, after rinsing like crazy of course. It helps if the soap doesnt have hydrolyzed wheat protein in it. I’m looking at you, Ecover!

    I have never seen any published research for any kind of crossreactivity. I have seen research showing that some people react to the proteins in corn or oats, but not CROSS reactive. Have you?

  8. JessD

    June 26, 2012 at 11:29 pm

    This post makes me think of my cousin, who has persistent IBS, which improves on a paleo diet, but is still there. She is particularly sensitive to gluten. She refuses to give up EXCESSIVE COFFEE CONSUMPTION (she always has to get the largest size, and never decaf, multiple times a day). She also consumes gut irritants like hot sauce (I’ve read studies that show that both capsacin & vinegar increase gut inflammation/permeability), and she drinks enough alcohol too (also listed in studies as a gut irritant, along with NSAIDs). And she could work on her stress (also linked to IBS). So I realize that coffee may not be to blame here, but for people with persistent IBS that doesnt go away with paleo, I think being more moderate with coffee may be a better option (along with the hot sauce, and alcohol, of course!). Everything in moderation, and coffee should be no exception. I will find you the scientific journal article I speak of…I believe it lists caffeine as a gut irritant as well, but I do not remember off-hand (along with the lectins in grains & legumes, of course). I have a theory that daily coffee consumption is what keeps so many Americans who eat the zero-fiber SAD diet regular, ha. Because of the smooth muscle relaxer effect of certain coffee compounds. By the way, I am a molecular biologist, so I am constantly using google scholar to search for peer-reviewed journal articles relevant to paleo diet, and I have a high-level of understanding of the journals that I read.

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  10. MD

    July 21, 2012 at 6:14 am

    I have a severe gluten sensitivity that was diagnosed until my early thirties, and recently I found out an Aunt who has battled and beat cancer multiple times has been cancer free since being diagnosed with Celiac Disease in her 40’s. Undiagnosed Celiac disease can trigger rheumatoid arthritis diseases and my mother has Lupus so since finding out about my gluten intolerance I am diligently and extremely careful about everything that I consume. After the first few days that I committed to giving going gluten free I felt better than I had ever felt my whole life. As a petite woman who always wanted to and tried to gain weight and loves to cook having any type of restrictions put on what I consumed was something I thought I would never do. But the difference I felt convinced me that it was worth it, and I would never go back to feeling like I had a hangover everyday… not even for a baguette.

    With that said, as diligent as I am about knowing the ingredients for everything I consume now, I have accidentally consumed small amounts of gluten a handful of times. I can always tell, sometimes within the hour other times it takes a few hours before the reaction begins. When this happens… the ONE thing that seems to help curb the reaction is COFFEE. I have noticed that anytime I started to feel a reaction to gluten, then verified that there was some hidden ingredient that contained gluten ( a soy marinade, corn starch- modified, etc)… the times I drank at least one cup of coffee within hours of feeling a reaction for some reason the symptoms were less severe and passed in about half the time I drink coffee only in small amounts because it does have a laxative effect on me, and I can’t help but wonder if it is that laxative effect that could cause any gluten ingested by mistake to pass through my body faster and possibly lessen the effects of my gluten reaction. Though I haven’t been able to find any actual studies cited either. I wish there were some studies done on this.

  11. MD

    July 21, 2012 at 6:19 am

    Even though all I can find online regarding celiac disease and coffee is warnings against it, I know how much it seems to lessen an accidental reaction to gluten for me. For now I will continue to listen to my body.

  12. Ann Mays

    June 4, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    The use of the word “gluten” when talking about a potential sensitivity to coffee is just misleading. Those articles are talking about immunoglobulin G (igG) antibody reactions/tests/sensitivities…has nothing to do with gluten. BUT igG tests are great for finding out what one is sensitive to (I am sensitive to weird things like amaranth and celery as well as dairy, eggs, soy, corn, etc.)

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