Something’s in your coffee that’s linked to cancer

November 16, 2009 by  
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cup of coffeeThere’s something in your coffee aside from caffeine that may be very important for your health. Introducing trigonelline or “trig” for short identified by scientists at Texas AgriLife Research.

So what is so special about trig? Well, for one thing, it acts like the female hormone estrogen. And because it is estrogenic, it can be a contributing factor to estrogen-dependent breast cancer but can help prevent colon cancer.

Does that mean we should stop (or step up) drinking coffee? Not so fast according to Dr. Clinton Allred, nutrition scientist at AgriLife Research.

“The important thing to get from this is that ‘trig’ has the ability to act like a hormone. So there is a tie to cancer in the sense that we are looking at estrogen-dependent cancer cells. But that doesn’t suggest that it would actually cause the disease. I don’t believe there should be any concern about drinking coffee at this point.”

Trig is natural compound used in traditional Indian medicine to relieve symptoms in postmenopausal women. However, the estrogen-mimicking properties of trig is surprising since its chemical structure is not similar at all to estradiol, one of the three estrogen hormones.

Trig is found in coffee beans but the amount of this estrogenic compound in your cup of coffee will depend on the following:

  • The variety of coffee beans. Trig is found in the two main types of bans consumed in the US.
  • The method of roasting the coffee beans. The more the bean is roasted, the less trig is contained.
  • The method of brewing. Trig has been detected in a normal cup of brewed coffee.

How do estrogenic compounds such as trig affect cancer? Well, “Estrogen-dependent tumors in the presence of estradiol will grow faster,” according to Dr. Allred. His research team observed this in a series of lab experiments. Trig is definitely estrogenic even at low concentrations.

The researchers caution against jumping into conclusions and misconceptions:

“…people often narrow one compound in a food without considering the total mix of compounds and how they interact with each other or in a human body.”

“…menopausal women seek over-the-counter phytoestrogen compounds to relieve symptoms such as hot flashes.”

The researchers believe these behaviors are not advisable. The latter is especially dangerous since women might have estrogen- dependent breast cancer without even knowing it. It takes 30 years from the start of a tumor until diagnosis.

But not everything about trig is bad. Estrogenic compounds have been shown to prevent colon cancer formation. Thus, trig is a potential treatment for colon cancer provided the patient does not have estrogen-dependent cancer.

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.

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