By Dr. Mercola
Have you ever heard the urban legend that non-dairy coffee creamer is flammable? If you watch the video above, you'll see that this isn't an urban legend at all; it's actually true!
I even know of some people who have used non-dairy creamer to start their campfires! Which, of course, begs the question… what is this stuff made of, and do you really want to add it to your morning coffee?
What's Really in Your Non-Dairy Creamer?
If you drink coffee, the best way to drink it is black without sugar or cream and preferably organic. But if you choose to add cream, the simple, old-fashioned full-fat cream (preferably organic, raw, and from grass-fed cows) is the best option.
Non-dairy creamer can scarcely be called "cream" at all, as it is more aptly a synthetic combination of chemicals, oils, sugars, and milk products. Let's take a look at some of the more common ingredients, which will, of course, vary slightly depending on your brand:
Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil
Part of the problem with partially hydrogenated soybean oil is the trans fat it contains. These synthetic trans fats are known to promote inflammation.
There are also the significant health hazards of soy itself, with the majority of soybeans genetically engineered and contaminated with highly toxic herbicides like Roundup (glyphosate).
High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
It's often claimed that HFCS is no worse for you than sugar, but this is not the case. Because high-fructose corn syrup contains free-form monosaccharides of fructose and glucose, it cannot be considered biologically equivalent to sucrose (sugar), which has a glycosidic bond that links the fructose and glucose together, and slows its breakdown in the body.
Fructose is primarily metabolized by your liver, because your liver is the only organ that has the transporter for it. Nearly all fructose gets shuttled to your liver, and, if you eat a typical Western-style diet.
When you consume high amounts of it, fructose ends up taxing and damaging your liver in the same way alcohol and other toxins do. And just like alcohol, fructose is metabolized directly into fat – this subsequently stored fat leads to mitochondrial malfunction, obesity, and obesity-related diseases.
This inorganic salt is used as a stabilizer and anti-coagulant in non-dairy creamer. It's also used in fertilizers and cosmetics, and is said to cause vomiting and diarrhea if consumed "in quantities."1
Mono- and Diglycerides
These additives are used to blend together ingredients that normally wouldn't blend well (such as oil and water). They may be synthetically produced or derived from animal or vegetable sources, including partially hydrogenated oils.
This doesn't sound bad, until you realize that additives like monosodium glutamate (MSG) and related forms of concentrated free form glutamate can be labeled as natural. MSG is an excitotoxin, which means it overexcites your cells to the point of damage or death.
It causes brain dysfunction and damage to varying degrees, and potentially even triggering or worsening learning disabilities, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, Lou Gehrig's disease, and more. Non-dairy creamer may also contain the vanilla-smelling anal secretions from beavers, called castoreum.
This ingredient is extracted from milk protein and used as a thickener and whitening agent. Sodium caseinate is typically treated with the chemical solium hydroxide, a chemical alkali. The problem with chemical alkalies is that they act like "anti-nutrients" – damaging or suppressing nutrient absorption.
Casein is also the primary protein found in cow's milk associated with allergies, neurological conditions, and autoimmune reactions such as juvenile-onset type 1 diabetes.
Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate (SSL)
This additive is used to strengthen bread dough as well as a cleanser, foaming agent, and emulsifier in cosmetic products. SSL is also used to replace fat and sugar, as it has a mildly sweet taste and reduces the amount of oil needed in products.
Coffee Can Be a Health-Promoting Beverage
While I personally don't drink or enjoy coffee, the emerging research suggests it may have a number of unrecognized health-promoting properties. Not every single study shows coffee to be beneficial, but the majority are quite positive, suggesting that coffee has been unfairly maligned. There is strong evidence coffee can help stabilize your blood glucose level and may even help curb sugar cravings. Caffeine binds to your opioid receptors, which essentially prohibits you from craving something else, such as sugar.
Research also shows that coffee triggers a mechanism in your brain that releases a growth factor called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF). BDNF activates brain stem cells to produce new neurons, and also expresses itself in your muscles. It does this by supporting the neuromotor, which is the most critical element in your muscle. Without the neuromotor, your muscle is like an engine without the ignition. Neuromotor degradation is part of the process underlying age-related muscle atrophy. Essentially, caffeine from natural whole coffee may help keep your brain and muscle tissue young. The following is a summary of some of the more recent research that supports coffee's health benefits.
Type 2 Diabetes A Japanese study in 2010 revealed that coffee consumption exerted a protective effect against type 2 diabetes,2 as further confirmed by 2012 German study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Researchers have also found that coffee doubles glucose intake, which will greatly reduce blood glucose levels. Parkinson's Disease Coffee may significantly cut your risk of Parkinson's disease.3 In fact, coffee is so preventative against Parkinson's that drug companies are designing experimental drugs that mimic coffee's benefits to your brain.4 Alzheimer's Disease A 2011 study revealed that a yet unidentified mystery ingredient in coffee interacts with the caffeine to help protect you from Alzheimer's disease.5 Prostate Cancer A large 2011 study of nearly 50,000 men found men who drank six cups of coffee per day had 60 percent lower risk of lethal prostate cancer, and those who drank three cups per day had a 30 percent lower risk.6 Liver Cancer A Japanese study found those who drank coffee daily, or close to it, had about half the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), a type of liver cancer, than people who never drank coffee.7 Coffee is also associated with less severe liver fibrosis, lower levels of fat in your liver, and lower rates of hepatitis-C disease progression.8 Kidney Cancer Coffee consumption may be associated with decreased risk of kidney cancer.9 Colorectal Cancer A 2007 study suggested coffee consumption may lower colon cancer risk among women.10 Heart Rhythm Problems A study showed moderate coffee drinking reduces your chances of being hospitalized for heart rhythm problems.11 Pulmonary Function A 2010 study revealed a beneficial effect of coffee on the pulmonary function of nonsmokers.12 Stroke A 2011 study found that women who drank more than one cup of coffee per day had about a 25 percent lower risk of stroke than women who drank less.13 A 2009 study found women who drank four or more cups of coffee per day reduced their stroke risk by 20 percent.14 Gastrointestinal Flora A study in 2009 showed coffee produced an increase in the metabolic activity and/or numbers of Bifidobacterium, which are beneficial bacteria in your gut.15
The Case for Drinking Your Coffee Black
If you are dousing your cup of Joe in creamer, non-dairy creamer, sugar, and other sweeteners and flavorings, you are missing out on the therapeutic benefits and potentially harming your health. The natural blend of polyphenol antioxidants (including chlorogenic acids) are part of what makes coffee so healthful. However, research suggests that adding dairy to your coffee may interfere with your body's absorption of beneficial chlorogenic acids.16
So while it's definitely best to avoid synthetic foods like non-dairy creamer, even adding raw whole milk to your coffee may interfere with the bioavailability of its antioxidants. Add sugar to your coffee and you'll also ruin the benefits discussed above by spiking your insulin levels, which contributes to insulin resistance. If you're interested in the health benefits, drink your coffee black, without sugar, non-dairy creamer or cream, or flavorings. If you really can't stand your coffee black, you could try adding non-dairy alternatives like almond or coconut milk.