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Are Mycotoxins in Coffee Harmful For You?

ceramic mug and coffee beans

Anyone who drinks coffee has heard the debate over whether coffee is a healthy drink or something to be avoided. When researching the subject, you’ll find pros and cons in every article you read and every video you watch. While caffeine content is routinely mentioned, many coffee lovers haven’t heard much mention of mycotoxins in their favorite beverage. Unfortunately, when it comes to coffee beans that have been improperly sourced or are of low quality, the possibility of them being dangerous to our health is a big concern.

While most coffee beans have some level of mycotoxin, the levels are normally safe for human consumption. However, if you want to be sure, you’ll need to invest a bit of time to understand just where your beans come from and how they were processed to determine the particular level of risk. We’ll elaborate down below.

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What Are Mycotoxins?

Mycotoxins are toxic chemicals formed by molds and fungus. These toxins can be dangerous when consumed by humans or animals whether they are inhaled, absorbed through the skin, or eaten. Several of the foods we enjoy every day have the potential to contain mycotoxins. Coffee, foods with grains such as cereal, nuts, apples, and even dried fruits have the potential to contain mycotoxins due to the growing conditions and humid areas where the crops are raised.

Mycotoxins are more common when it comes to coffee due to the tropical regions where the beans are grown. Optimal conditions for coffee growth include high temperatures and humidity. This is perfect for the introduction of mycotoxins. When you factor in the income of some coffee-growing regions and their lower ability to properly store and process the coffee beans they harvest, it’s understandable why the coffee we drink is so susceptible to exposure to mycotoxins.

green coffee beans
Image Credit: Schmucki, Pixabay

The Mycotoxins Found in Our Coffee

While there are a wide variety of mycotoxins in the world, coffee has the potential to be host to two specific types.

Ochratoxin A

The mycotoxin Ochratoxin A, or OCA, is produced by types of fungi. Naturally foodborne, this mycotoxin often occurs due to the storage of coffee and other foods during their processing.

Aflatoxin B1

All aflatoxins are produced by molds and are poisonous to us. This is why these carcinogens are considered quite toxic. With aflatoxin B1 being found in the soil and plants, it can easily make its way into our favorite coffee beans.

coffee plants in a farm
Image Credit: mciriaco, Pixabay

What Mycotoxins Can Do to Humans

There are two different types of exposure when it comes to mycotoxins and mold: acute and chronic. Acute mycotoxin exposure symptoms hit suddenly and can be quite severe. The reason for this severity is acute exposure is experienced after a person has been exposed to a large dose of mycotoxin at one time. Chronic exposure is the opposite. This exposure is due to lower dosages of mycotoxins over an extended period and has been known to cause serious health issues.

It’s difficult to gather reliable data when it comes to mycotoxins and their effects on the body due to many of the countries that grow coffee having relaxed regulations. This is why it’s important to know more about how your coffee beans are sourced and purchase only the highest-quality beans available in your area.

Here’s a look at the symptoms you may experience when exposed to mycotoxins.

  • Lowered immunity
  • Damage to the digestive system
  • Difficulty digesting proteins
  • Dangers to the lungs

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Final Thoughts

The levels of mycotoxins in coffee beans are normally safe for human consumption. If you hope to avoid dangerous levels of mycotoxins, it is important to use properly sourced beans that have been processed and roasted correctly. These proper procedures will help reduce the dangers of mycotoxins and make your morning cup of joe more enjoyable.


Featured Image Credit: SvenHilker, Pixabay

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Melissa Gunter

Melissa has been a fan of coffee since the first sip she stole from her Granny's cup when she was just a girl. Now, she spends each morning writing with a hot cup of coffee at her side. With a love of sweet and creamy bliss, Melissa and her daughter, Amber, stop by and try out every local coffee shop they see. Neither are afraid to try something new and have a long list of favorite coffee beverages they simply can't do without. When she's not freelance writing about her 2 passions, coffee, and pets, Melissa spends her time with her husband, 2 kids, and 5 fur babies. She also loves diving into the fiction world under her pen name, Rena Marin. If she isn't at the laptop or with the family, Melissa is out enjoying the mountains of East Tennessee she calls home.

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