Are Mycotoxins in Coffee Harmful For You?

Being a coffee lover, you might have already heard a lot about the good and bad sides of coffee consumption. The debate of whether coffee is a healthy drink or not, seems to be a never-ending one.

There has been a lot of research conducted to prove the health benefits of coffee consumption, however, did you know that your favorite beverage might contain toxins such as mold and mycotoxins?

That is right, if you go for low-quality beans that have not been properly sourced or processed, your favorite drink can turn out to be a harmful one.

coffee beans

coffee beans

What Are Mycotoxins?

Before you are out there looking for your favorite organic coffee without mycotoxins, let us first understand what these are and their health impacts.

Mycotoxins are toxic chemical compounds in the form of fungi, that are produced by molds which may grow on various crops, including coffee beans and grains. The production of molds and mycotoxins increases greatly in areas or regions with high moisture and humidity.

Since optimum coffee-growth is also achieved in tropical regions with high moisture, coffee beans tend to get exposed to these toxins rather easily.

Presence of Mycotoxins in Coffee

According to studies, there are more than 300 different types of mycotoxins with different chemical structures. However, as far as coffee is concerned, only two specific types are associated with it:

Aflatoxin B1

Aflatoxin B1 is a poisonous carcinogen and is considered to be one of the most toxic variants of aflatoxins (all aflatoxins are poisonous and produced by molds). These chemicals grow in soil, grains, beans, etc.

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These carcinogens are found in commodities such as peanuts, chilli peppers, sweetcorn, sunflower seeds, cassava, wheat, coffee beans, etc.

Ochratoxin A

Ochratoxin A (OTA) is another natural foodborne mycotoxin that is produced by various types of fungi including Aspergillus and Penicillium. It is found in coffee beans, grains, fruit, spices, etc.

These mycotoxins contaminate different food crops, depending on the exposure to temperature and water activity. Majority of contamination occurs due to poor storage of food items or during the drying and processing.

coffee cherry on branch

coffee cherry on branch

Mycotoxins Health Impacts

Studies show that mycotoxins can cause poisoning if they are consumed in high quantities.

As far as the individual effects are concerned, Aflatoxin B1 is associated with stunted growth in children, liver damage and some types of cancers. Ochratoxin A, on the other hand, is linked with oxidative stress that adversely affects protein synthesis. This can result in long-term health problems including fatigue, memory loss, dizziness, etc.

Other harmful effects of these toxins include chronic health problems that may directly affect the brain, kidneys, immune system, etc. The medical condition that results from the negative effects of these toxins is referred to as mycotoxicosis.

Moreover, these toxins can cause neurotoxicity – a condition that triggers nervous system or brain damage, and in some cases, can be fatal.

How Can You Avoid Mycotoxins?

Since mycotoxins are present everywhere, it is almost impossible to completely avoid them. According to a study, Ochratoxin A is also found in breast milk.

Farmers have come up with certain coffee-growing techniques that decrease the amount of mycotoxins in coffee. One of these techniques is wet-processing. Additionally, if coffee is roasted properly, it also reduces the presence of molds that pave way for mycotoxins.

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Mycotoxins are usually found in coffees that are stored for a relatively longer period before they enter the roasting stage. Even if there are production constraints that cannot reduce the storage period, farmers should use the best agricultural and farming processes to avoid contamination during storage, and the rest of the production process.

Our Final Word on Mycotoxins in Coffee

In a broader perspective, you do not have to worry too much about the percentage of mycotoxins and molds that you consume in your cup of Joe every day. Most coffee beans around the world have toxins that are well below the safety limits.

However, we still recommend to only go for high-quality, well-sourced and well-processed coffee beans that ensure maximum protection from toxins or any other harmful substances.

The positive health impacts of coffee drinking are still way more than the negative elements, keep enjoying your favorite beverage! ?

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