Coffee & Tea
February 27, 2023

Is Decaf Coffee Bad for Your Kidneys? (How Much Can You Drink?)

Craving a warm cup of decaf coffee but worrying that it’ll affect your health? Check this article to know whether decaf coffee is bad for your kidneys.

Dan Doughty
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If you’re a coffee-lover who recently developed renal issues, a question that may pop into your mind is, “Is decaf coffee bad for your kidneys?” 

The short answer is yes and no. Decaf coffee can be bad for your kidneys because it has high potassium content. This will make your kidneys work too much to get rid of the excess. However, decaf coffee can be beneficial to them, too, because it doesn’t raise your blood pressure, which lowers the risk of kidney failure.

But that’s not all. In this article, we’ve delved deeper into how decaf coffee might be good or bad for your kidneys, so scroll below to learn more!

Is Coffee Bad for Kidneys?

The best way to determine if coffee is harmful to the kidneys is by looking at its nutrition facts. One cup of sugar-free, no-cream, black coffee has around 118mg of potassium. This makes up 2% of the recommended daily intake, which isn’t much. 

But here’s the catch. Most people consume more than a single cup of coffee per day. In fact, the National Coffee Association reports that Americans drink three cups of coffee each day. 

On top of that, most Americans prefer to add additives like creamers. Adding creamer to a cup of coffee will give you 328mg of potassium! This is too much load on your kidneys. Now, imagine if you consumed two more cups throughout the day. See the point? 

So, how is this bad for your kidneys? When you take too much potassium, your kidneys need to “work” hard to get rid of it. While no evidence (until now) says that there’s a direct correlation between getting kidney disease and drinking too much coffee, it’s better to err on the side of caution and drink in moderation. 

Coffee can also cause a sudden spike in blood pressure for up to three hours after drinking it. This is especially true if you don’t consume coffee regularly since you don’t have a tolerance for it. It’s important to note that high blood pressure is the second major cause of kidney failure. So, that’s one more reason to drink coffee moderately.

How Is Decaf Coffee Better for Kidneys Than Regular Coffee?

Now that you know coffee can be bad for your kidneys if you drink it in excess, you might be wondering whether the same goes for decaf coffee. As we mentioned, coffee constricts blood vessels and increases blood pressure, which can eventually lead to weakness in the kidney, and in some severe cases, kidney failure.

But is decaf coffee okay or bad for blood pressure? 

Fortunately, research says that decaf coffee doesn’t constrict blood vessels, so it doesn’t give you high blood pressure, unlike regular coffee. This makes it a great alternative for people who suffer from hypertension, and it’s also less risky to drink if you suffer from kidney issues.

How Is Decaf Coffee Worse for Your Kidneys Than Regular Coffee?

While decaf coffee doesn’t increase blood pressure, unfortunately, it’s higher in potassium than regular coffee. To give you a clear picture, one cup of decaf coffee will give you 216mg of potassium—almost twice what’s in regular coffee. 

This means that you should drink decaf in moderation to prevent increasing potassium blood levels and harming your kidneys, especially if you already have a history of kidney problems.

Other Side Effects of Decaf Coffee 

Besides the high potassium content, decaf coffee has other side effects that you should be aware of. We’ve discussed them below.

Raises Cholesterol Levels

Even though regular coffee can be beneficial to the health of your heart, that might not be the case for decaf coffee. Researchers at Piedmont-Mercer Center for Health and Learning studied the relationship between drinking coffee and cholesterol levels. 

They made a group of people drink three to six cups of decaf coffee for three months. By the end of the study, they observed a noticeable increase in the “bad” LDL cholesterol levels. This is because the beans that are used to make decaf coffee have more fat content than the ones found in regular coffee. 

So, what’s the link between cholesterol and heart health? LDL cholesterol levels can increase the risk of heart disease. Even though this risk isn’t high, we recommend that you avoid or moderately drink decaf coffee if you struggle with high cholesterol levels in the blood.

Has Harmful Chemicals

Some brands make decaf coffee by using a chemical called methyl chloride. Would you believe that this is the same chemical used to make paint strippers? 

As you might’ve guessed, this substance can harm your health, especially if it’s highly concentrated. For instance, it might hurt your central nervous system and lead to dizziness, double vision, or drunken behavior. 

Plus, low concentrations of methyl chloride might lead to liver and kidney toxicity. Thus, we recommend steering clear of brands that make decaf coffee with it. 

Most coffee brands mention the substance used during the decaffeinating process, so check them before purchasing.

Reduces Iron Absorption 

Decaf coffee might hinder your body’s ability to absorb iron because it contains tannic acid, a substance that binds to iron. So, you should drink your coffee an hour after having a meal if you have any symptoms of iron deficiency, such as: 

  • Pale skin
  • Exhaustion
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Dizziness

Increases Risk for Arthritis

This might be surprising to you, but decaf coffee could potentially increase the risk of rheumatoid arthritis. It’s not clear why, but a study reports that for every extra cup of decaf coffee, you increase the risk for rheumatoid arthritis by up to 11%. 

However, it also concluded that regular coffee and tea didn’t have any effects on rheumatoid arthritis. This could mean that the decaffeinating process is the culprit behind the high risk for the disease.

Is Decaf Coffee Bad for Kidney Stones?

In the past, scientists believed that caffeine could increase the risk of developing kidney stones. That’s no longer the case because recent studies have proved that caffeine actually reduces (not increases) the risk. 

But why is that? Caffeine is a diuretic, which means it increases urination. This helps in preventing stones from forming in the kidney.

Conversely, decaf coffee doesn’t make you want to pee because it doesn’t have the diuretic effects of caffeine. Despite this, a study reports that decaf coffee has reduced the risk of kidney stones by a whopping 16%.

In short, if you suffer from kidney stones, you don’t have to ditch your morning cup of coffee, regular or decaf.

Is Drinking Decaf Coffee Safe for Your Kidneys?

Drinking decaf coffee is safe for your kidneys as long as you drink it in moderation, especially if you have high potassium blood levels. But consult your doctor before drinking it if you follow a strict renal diet. 

Also, if you struggle with regulating your high blood pressure, decaf coffee is safer for you than regular coffee.

Other Benefits of Decaf Coffee

Everybody talks about the benefits of regular coffee, but decaf coffee has just as many. Below, we’ll delve into them.

Lowers Risk for Type 2 Diabetes

A study by the American Heart Association Journal reports that decaf coffee can lower the risk for type 2 diabetes. The researchers surveyed American coffee drinkers to notice the correlation between their drinking habits and diabetes. 

They concluded that drinking one to five cups of decaf coffee might slightly reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes. Another research suggests that this could be due to the presence of cafestol, which is a compound that has anti-diabetic properties, such as increasing insulin secretion. 

Lowers Risk for Certain Cancer Types

Decaf coffee might reduce the risk for some cancers like colorectal cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, liver cancer, and leukemia, a recent study reports. This is because decaf and regular coffee have antioxidants that are anti-carcinogenic. 

Protects Against Neurodegenerative Diseases

A study about the effects of coffee on the neurons concluded that decaf and regular coffee could protect the brain from degeneration. 

It’s still unclear why but one possible explanation is that the phenolic acids of coffee, which are antioxidants, have a strong role in protecting neurons.

This means that decaf coffee might reduce the risk for neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and dementia. But, of course, multiple studies are still needed on the topic.

Reduces GERD Symptoms

Regular coffee is well-known for its acidity. That’s usually a good thing because higher acidity in hot brewed coffee means more beneficial antioxidants. However, this acidity can lead to unpleasant symptoms like acid reflux and heartburn, especially for people with GERD. 

Luckily, that’s not the case for decaf coffee. Since 97% of caffeine gets removed from it, the acidity substantially lowers too. This makes it an excellent low-acid beverage for people who experience heartburn symptoms more often than not. 

Good for Sleep

If you’re a coffee lover who loves to drink coffee at night, decaf coffee is for you. It’ll give you the taste of coffee minus the wakefulness that caffeine causes. Regular coffee, on the other hand, can give you restless sleep, especially if you aren’t used to it.

Still, you should drink it moderately because decaf coffee still has a bit of caffeine that can affect you if you have a low tolerance.

Good for the Liver

The studies conducted on the correlation between decaf coffee and liver function aren’t as many as the ones for regular coffee. However, there’s an 11-year survey that suggests decaf coffee might reduce the risk of liver failure by 21% due to lowering enzyme levels. 

The survey also reports that consuming three or four cups of coffee per day improved liver functions the most.

All in all, decaf coffee has a myriad of health benefits and fewer risks than regular coffee. If you want to cut down on your caffeine consumption but can’t ditch coffee completely, it’s an excellent alternative.

Who Should Avoid Regular Coffee?

Caffeine has many health benefits, such as improving cognitive function, elevating your mood, and reducing the risk of heart failure. However, it isn’t suitable for you if you are any of the following:

  • Are pregnant because caffeine might negatively affect the baby.
  • Have anxiety or panic attacks because caffeine worsens them.
  • Struggle with high blood pressure.
  • Have caffeine sensitivity.
  • Suffer from GERD or stomach issues because caffeine makes them worse.

If you have any of the mentioned cases, you should shift to decaf coffee unless you have high potassium levels in your blood.

Final Verdict 

By now, you know the ABCs of how decaf coffee impacts your renal health. But to wrap it up, decaf coffee can be both beneficial and harmful to your kidneys. 

It can be beneficial because it doesn’t constrict your blood vessels, and thus, you don’t get high blood pressure. But does decaf coffee cause kidney stones? Some studies say that it reduces the risk of kidney stones by 18%. 

However, it can be harmful because it’s high in potassium content. But how does this relate to your kidneys? When there are high potassium blood levels, they have to overwork to get rid of the excess. This increases the risk of kidney failure. 

Thus, anyone who has high potassium blood levels should avoid or moderately drink decaf coffee.

About the author
Dan Doughty
Dan Doughty is the founder of Dripshipper. In operation since 2018, Dripshipper has helped thousands of merchants start a private label coffee brand and supply coffee to their customers.

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