5 Unexpected Side Effects Of Decaf Coffee You Must Be Aware Of

Yes! Not just caffeine but even decaf can cause harm if not used in moderation.

Medically reviewed by Madhu Sharma, RD Madhu Sharma Madhu SharmaRD
Written by , BSc, Professional Certificate in Food, Nutrition and Health Ravi Teja Tadimalla BSc, Professional Certificate in Food, Nutrition and Health Experience: 8 years
Edited by , BA (Literature & Psychology), PG Diploma Arshiya Syeda BA (Literature & Psychology), PG Diploma Experience: 7 years
Fact-checked by , BTech (Biotechnology), Certified Health & Nutrition Life Coach Sindhu Koganti BTech (Biotechnology), Certified Health & Nutrition Life Coach Experience: 6 years
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Many of us start our day with a hot cup of coffee. But if caffeine isn’t suitable, decaf coffee is an alternative most consume. However, it is important to be aware of the side effects of decaf coffee. Contrary to popular opinion, it doesn’t lead to dehydration or increased heart rate, but there are still some side effects.

protip_icon Know The Flip Side: Decaf Coffee

Short-Term Effects
Acidity, headache, drowsiness, and gastric issues.

Long-Term Effects
May aggravate rheumatoid arthritis, and increase the risk of heart attack, and myocardial infarction.

Drug Interactions
May interact negatively with antidiabetic medications, anticoagulant drugs, asthma medications, and contraceptive drugs.

When To See A Doctor
Consult your doctor if you experience loss of consciousness, digestive issues, a quickening heart rate, extreme anxiety, nausea, or restlessness.


Consuming decaffeinated coffee in excess may increase the risk of heart attack and myocardiali  A muscular tissue found in the heart. Shortness of breath and chest pains are symptoms of myocardial infarction. infarction (1).

It may seem like a safer alternative to coffee but has many adverse effects.

Continue reading to learn more about them.

Decaf Vs. Regular Coffee

AspectDecaf CoffeeRegular Coffee
Caffeine Content2-5 mg per 8 oz cup70-140 mg per 8 oz cup
Stimulating effectLess stimulating due to low caffeineMore stimulating due to higher caffeine
TasteSlightly altered flavor; milder tasteRobust coffee flavor; bitter
Health ConsiderationsSuitable for caffeine-sensitive individuals, pregnant women, and those with any health concernsSuitable for everyone except those with caffeine sensitivity
VarietiesDecaf versions of most coffee types, including decaf espresso and decaf drip coffeeA wide range of coffee types with varying levels of caffeine
Impact On SleepLess likely to disrupt sleepMay disrupt sleep if consumed in the evening
AvailabilityAvailable in various blends and flavorsAvailable in a wide range of blends and flavors
CostExpensiveOften more affordable

To make an informed choice between regular coffee and decaf, it’s essential to understand how decaf coffee is made. Learn more in the next section.

How Is Decaf Coffee Made?

Before we get to the ill effects of decaf coffee, it is important to understand how it is made and does decaf coffee have caffeine in it or not.

As the name suggests, decaffeinated (or decaf, in short) coffee is coffee with most of its caffeine removed (97% – to be precise). One serving of decaf coffee contains about 2 milligrams of caffeine, as opposed to 95 milligrams in regular coffee (2).

Caffeine is extracted from coffee beans through various methods. These include the use of organic solvents, water, or carbon dioxide (3).

The removal of caffeine and other compounds can also rob this coffee of its trademark taste (2). Those preferring decaf coffee seem to be okay with this, given its purported benefits. But some research also sheds light on the possible side effects of decaffeinated coffee.

protip_icon Trivia
German coffee merchant Ludwig Roselius accidentally invented the decaffeination process in 1903. When a shipment of coffee was soaked in seawater, he discovered that the beans were lower in caffeine than usual, leading to the invention.

What Are The Side Effects Of Decaf Coffee?

1. May Cause Heart Complications

Decaf coffee may Cause Heart Complications
Image: Shutterstock

Decaffeinated coffee might increase the levels of bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol). These effects were not observed in the caffeinated variant (4). Decaf coffee was found to increase a specific blood fat that is linked to metabolic syndrome.

In another study, shifting from caffeinated to decaffeinated coffee did not decrease the risk of heart attacks (1).

Though decaffeinated coffee by itself may not be harmful, the chemicals used in the decaffeinating process could be. Methylene chloride, one such solvent used for the removal of caffeine, could be carcinogenici  Any agent or substance that can lead to cancer. Some examples include tobacco, asbestos, and alcohol. (5).

Two cups of decaffeinated coffee a day could be safe in healthy individuals.

But as per the FDA, if you react strongly to caffeine negatively, avoid decaffeinated coffee (6).

Replacing regular coffee with the decaf variant may lower blood pressure, although in a small way (7).

2. May Aggravate Rheumatoid Arthritis

Decaf coffee may aggravate rheumatoid arthritis
Image: Shutterstock

Consumption of decaf coffee was linked to an increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis (8). Surprisingly, caffeinated coffee did not pose this risk.

The underlying cause behind this could be the preparation and processing of decaffeinated coffee undergoes. Further research is needed to confirm this speculation (9).

3. May Cause Acidity

Decaf Coffee may cause acidity
Image: Shutterstock

Decaf coffee was found to increase serum gastrin concentrations (10). Gastrin is the hormone that triggers the release of stomach acid. When this happens in excess, it may lead to symptoms of acidity (11).

However, regular coffee was found to cause more pronounced gastroesophageali  It happens when the stomach pushes its contents back into the esophagus. It can be controlled by maintaining a healthy weight. reflux. This effect was mitigated when the coffee was decaffeinated (12).

4. May Interfere With Iron Absorption

Decaf coffee may interfere with iron absorption
Image: Shutterstock

Coffee, in general, contains chlorogenici  This compound is naturally available in coffee beans and has antioxidant properties. It can also be found in apples, carrots, and pears. acid, and so does decaffeinated coffee. Chlorogenic acid was found to inhibit nonheme (plant-based) iron absorption (13).

5. May Cause Headache And Drowsiness

Decaf coffee may cause headache and drowsiness
Image: Shutterstock

These could be more of withdrawal symptoms. Individuals who consume coffee regularly may often experience headaches, drowsiness, and even fatigue when given decaf coffee (14).

Eva De Angelis, Dietitian Nutritionist with a bachelor’s in Nutrition and Dietetics from ISalud University, says, “Caffeine can stimulate our central nervous system, and many of us rely on a morning coffee to kick start the day. You might experience some “withdrawal” symptoms when switching to decaf coffee due to the lack of caffeine. Suppose you’re used to having a regular intake of caffeine. In that case, you experience headaches, lethargy, depressed mood, and marked irritability when you switch to decaf, but only until your body gets used to the lack of caffeine.”

Paul Cantor, a blogger, documented his caffeine withdrawal and anxiety in his personal blog. He said, “My mind couldn’t shut off. I would be up late, awake early, never falling into a deep sleep (i).” He experienced disrupted sleep patterns due to excessive caffeine consumption, which prevented restorative rest.

Another possible concern could be the use of methylene chloride in the decaffeination process. Some research says the chemical can temporarily slow down the central nervous system, leading to headache, drowsiness, and nausea (15).

protip_icon Trivia
Anecdotal evidence suggests that chicory, a root, was used as a substitute for decaf coffee. Since it tastes faintly like coffee and is caffeine-free, you may also try it as an alternative.

Should You Choose Decaffeinated Coffee?

It depends on what you are looking for. If you are required to restrict caffeine intake due to any reason, decaf coffee could be ideal.

But if you are extremely sensitive to caffeine, we do not recommend it. This also includes pregnant or lactating women and individuals dealing with anxiety or who have trouble sleeping (16).

According to Eva De Angelis, “Since decaf coffee only has very little amounts of caffeine, it does not cause anxiety.” But individuals who are sensitive to caffeine may experience anxiety-like symptoms like shaking and jitteriness.

Infographic: Natural Decaf Coffee Recipe

Decaf coffee has gained a lot of focus in the coffee industry and has grabbed the attention of many health enthusiasts. While its side effects may make you think twice before choosing it, you should try natural decaf coffee if you want to restrict your caffeine intake. It is a healthy alternative to store-bought decaf coffee and almost mimics the taste of regular coffee.

The following infographic provides information about the preparation of natural decaf coffee. Check it out!

natural decaf coffee recipe (infographic)

Illustration: StyleCraze Design Team

Decaf coffee is the best alternative to your regular coffee without caffeine (97% of caffeine is removed). The high antioxidant and nutrient content of decaf may benefit your health. However, one must also be aware of the side effects of decaf coffee associated with its excessive consumption. It may cause heart complications by increasing bad cholesterol levels, aggravate rheumatoid arthritis and acidity, cause heartburn and acid reflux along with other digestive issues, interfere with iron absorption, and cause headaches and drowsiness. If you are extremely sensitive to caffeine, drinking decaf coffee is also not recommended. Limit the consumption of decaf coffee to avoid these adverse reactions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it OK to drink decaf coffee every day?

Eva De Angelis says, “Drinking decaf coffee every day is safe, and in fact, it can be beneficial. During the decaffeination process, decaf coffee loses up to 15% of the healthful antioxidants of coffee. Yet, it is still a great source of antioxidants in classic Western diets.
Moderate intakes of either regular or decaf coffee are associated with tons of health benefits. It is not only caffeine that is good for us. Other bioactive compounds, like polyphenols, diterpenes, and trigonelline, are also highly beneficial. They all have antioxidant properties and thus can protect DNA and cellular proteins from damage, reducing oxidative stress. This may aid in the prevention of diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes.”
She adds “Some people question whether the decaffeination process is safe. One of the compounds used is methylene chloride, which, if inhaled, can cause headaches, lightheadedness, irritability, wheezing, or coughing. Yet, this process has not only been approved by the FDA, but it’s also highly regulated.”

Does decaffeinated coffee raise blood pressure?

“Since the caffeine content in decaf coffee is quite low, drinking decaf coffee is not linked with a rise in blood pressure. Caffeine is the compound responsible for the link between coffee and elevated blood pressure. Caffeine is a vasoconstrictor, so it shrinks blood vessels leading to high blood pressure. Yet, all the other beneficial compounds in coffee are known to protect blood vessels,” according to Eva.

Does decaf coffee cause inflammation?

Eva says, “In most people, coffee may help reduce inflammation. Yet, we’re all different; this might not be the case for some individuals. So, taking into account what’s your particular experience after drinking coffee is key. Although the research on decaf coffee is more limited, it seems to have the same general effects of reducing inflammation because it’s rich in other antioxidants with anti-inflammatory properties.

How much of decaffeinated coffee can you drink?

All types of decaffeinated coffee contain caffeine, although in less amounts. Drinking 5 to 10 cups of decaf coffee could accumulate the amount of caffeine found in 1 to 2 cups of regular, caffeinated coffee (17).
But this does not mean you can drink 5 to 10 cups of decaf coffee every day. Stick to 2 to 3 cups to be on the safe side.

Does decaf coffee make you poop?

Yes, it does – just like regular coffee. This is related to its ability to trigger gastric acid secretions. The stomach acid helps churn the food and move it quickly through the gut (18), (19).

Does decaf coffee cause inflammation?

No, coffee contains anti-inflammatory compounds, and so does decaffeinated coffee. It provides antioxidants and may, in fact, fight inflammation (20).

Can decaf coffee cause weight gain?

No, decaf coffee is virtually free of calories and does not lead to weight gain.

Key Takeaways

  • Caffeine sensitivity can lead to insomnia, jitteriness, and anxiety.
  • Some people may have acidity from decaf coffee.
  • Some people’s cholesterol levels may rise as a result of drinking decaf coffee.
  • Those who are sensitive to caffeine may get headaches after drinking decaf coffee.
  • Chemical byproducts of the decaffeination process may be present in some decaf coffee brands, which could be harmful to your health.

Discover the truth about decaf coffee and its impact on your health. Check out this eye-opening video and explore the potential risks and benefits of this popular beverage.

Personal Experience: Source

References

Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  1. Decaffeinated coffee and acute myocardial infarction. A case-control study in Italian women
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7921307/
  2. Get the facts about decaffeinated coffee
    https://www.ncausa.org/Decaffeinated-Coffee
  3. Caffeine in coffee: its removal. Why and how?
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10516914/
  4. Coffee caffeine and coronary heart disease
    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/298987145_Coffee_caffeine_and_coronary_heart_disease
  5. ACUTE EFFECT OF DECAFFEINATED COFFEE ON HEART RATE BLOOD PRESSURE AND EXERCISE PERFORMANCE IN HEALTHY SUBJECTS
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2625695/pdf/jnma00908-0085.pdf
  6. Spilling the Beans: How Much Caffeine is Too Much?
    https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/spilling-beans-how-much-caffeine-too-much
  7. Effect of decaffeinated versus regular coffee on blood pressure. A 12-week double-blind trial
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2680964/
  8. Coffee tea and caffeine consumption and risk of rheumatoid arthritis: results from the Iowa Women’s Health Study
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11817612/
  9. Decaffeinated Coffee Increases Risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis
    https://www.uab.edu/newsarchive/43984-decaffeinated-coffee-increases-risk-of-rheumatoid-arthritis
  10. The acute effects of coffee and caffeine on human interdigestive exocrine pancreatic secretion
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/3575300/
  11. Gastric acid and gastrin response to decaffeinated coffee and a peptone meal
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/6894624/
  12. Effect of decaffeination of coffee or tea on gastro-oesophageal reflux
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7918922/
  13. Inhibition of Iron Absorption by Coffee and the Reduced Risk of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus
    https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/article-abstract/411511
  14. Effect of dose on the ability of caffeine to serve as a reinforcer in humans
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11224118/
  15. Caffeine Effects on the Central Nervous System and Behavioral Effects Associated with Caffeine Consumption
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK202225/
  16. Caffeine–common ingredient in a diet and its influence on human health
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22928360/
  17. Caffeine consumption
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8603790/
  18. Does postprandial coffee intake enhance gastric emptying?: a crossover study using continuous real time 13C breath test (BreathID system)
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19621729/
  19. Is coffee a colonic stimulant?
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9581985/
  20. Coffee consumption and markers of inflammation and endothelial dysfunction in healthy and diabetic women
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17023717/
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Madhu Sharma is a member of the National Executive Committee of IDA. She has been associated for almost three decades with Pediatric Nutrition at PGI while serving in the Gastroenterology Department (20 years) and then the Advanced Pediatric Center (10 yrs) at PGIMER, Chandigarh. She is former Senior Dietitian from PGIMER, Chandigarh, retired in 2012.   Madhu has been closely...read full bio

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