Is decaf worse than ordinary coffee?

Bruce Mercer

Decaffeinated coffee used to be the poorer choice but is now a better alternative thanks to companies using a different process to extract the caffeine.

I’ve recently changed to decaffeinated coffee but someone told me it’s worse for you than ordinary coffee – is this true? Thanks Greg.

Hi Greg. The answer to this question truly depends on the individual, their biochemistry and how sensitive they are to caffeine.

Originally the process used to extract caffeine from the coffee used chemicals, which meant the decaffeinated coffee was essentially a poorer choice than caffeinated coffee. However, now more and more companies use a water extraction method, also known as the Swiss water extraction process, which is certainly a better alternative.

However, green tea is a preferential choice as it contains many other health benefits including the calming effect of an amino acid l-theanine, and plenty of antioxidants. Be aware that green tea still contains some caffeine though.

If you want a caffeine free milky drink, try roasted dandelion tea (available from the supermarket) and add your favourite frothed milk to it. That way you support liver detoxification pathways and can enjoy a lovely flavour.

Why is it that any time I become stressed I gain weight? I try to eat less but I just feel my clothes getting tighter and tighter. Thanks, Sarah

Hi Sarah. The human body makes two dominant stress hormones. They are adrenalin and cortisol. Cortisol is our chronic stress hormone. In other words, we tend to make too much of it when we are stressed for a long time.

Historically, the only long-term stresses humans had were floods, famines and wars; all scenarios where food may have been scarce. Today, our long-term stress tends to come from relationship or financial worries, or health or weight concerns.

However, because cortisol was designed to save your life when food was scarce, even though food may be abundant for you today, cortisol sends a message to every cell in your body that your metabolism needs to be slowed down so that those precious fat stores can keep you going until the food supply returns.

Cortisol has a distinct fat deposition pattern. It lays fat down around your middle, on the back of your arms and you grow what I lovingly call a back verandah. Most people’s response to fat accumulation around their tummies is to go on a diet, which means eating less food. This only confirms to your body what cortisol has driven your body to believe is true, when in fact the opposite is true and food is likely to be abundant for you.

When you restrict your food intake on your “diet” you slow your metabolism even further, making it feel like you only have to look at food for weight to go on. Stress is having a huge impact on our ability to lose weight and secondly, to keep it off, something I talk about in my book Accidentally Overweight.

Email your questions for Dr Libby to [email protected]. Please note, only a selection of questions can be answered.

Dr Libby is a nutritional biochemist, best-selling author and speaker. The advice contained in this column is not intended to be a substitute for direct, personalised advice from a health professional.  To read more from Dr Libby, be sure to get her monthly newsletter. Simply complete the form at

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