“Consuming coffee has many possible health benefits and assessing the health impact of coffee additives together with coffee health benefits may only work to confuse consumers and discourage consumption of a healthy beverage that is naturally very low in calories and sugars, and is full of antioxidants,” NCA CEO Bill Murray and NCA Director of Scientific & Government Affairs Mark Corey argue in a letter sent Feb. 6 to the DGAC.
As such, they argue, “It is important that the 2020 DGAC consider the health benefits of coffee and the potential impact of enhancers and additives separately, and provide advice to consumers that clearly articulates these differences.”
The letter comes in response to the 2020 DGAC Beverages and Added Sugars Subcommittee’s plan announced in late October to assess the health impact of coffee as part of a broader group of beverages that includes coffee and tea with additions such as milk, cream and sweeteners, and coffee and tea drinks, including ready-to-drink varieties.
According to the proposed protocol, the subcommittee will evaluate the impact on weight, height, body mass index scores, body circumference and other outcomes of coffee & tea along with milk, flavored milk, dairy drinks & substitutes, diet beverages, calorically sweetened beverages, nutritional beverages, plain water and flavored or enhanced water.
“NCA is concerned this approach does not adequately reflect coffee’s many unique health benefits,” which previously prompted the 2015 DGAC to conclude that coffee can be part of healthy diet, Murray said in a Feb. 7 statement.
The potential health benefits of coffee are well documented by independent scientific researchers and include benefits to type II diabetes, cancer, obesity, depression and Parkinson’s Disease all “have been shown regardless of whether or not coffee drinkers add sweeteners or other additives to their beverage,” Murray and Corey argue in the letter.
They also note that common coffee additives offer benefits – and increase risks – independently of coffee.
For example, they argue, “in some cases, dairy and soy additives may contribute essential nutrients (such as calcium) to the diet, nutrients which may be helpful or beneficial. In other cases, consumer should be mindful of the potential impact of coffee additives containing additional calories, sugars or saturated fats.”
Finally, they argue that examining coffee in combination with additives does not accurately reflect how many Americans drink the beverage.
“According to the 2019 edition of the National Coffee Data Trends, the coffee industry’s longest running consumer tracking study, 22% of coffee drinkers took their coffee black and unsweetened. Another 40% whitened and sweetened their coffee, while 30% added only a whitener and 9% a sweetener,” they say in the letter.
Furthermore, they add, “these same consumers also can report ‘all of the above’ – having a black coffee in the morning and a cappuccino in the afternoon.”
This shows “a consumer’s decision regarding coffee additives can be a wholly separate choice from the decision to drink coffee,” they say.
Given the scientific research, the prior DGAC’s decision to include coffee in a healthy diet and the myriad ways consumers drink coffee, they conclude the current subcommittee should “consider the research and help Americans deepen their understanding of the role that coffee – separate and apart form any additive to coffee – can play … in a healthy diet.”