Dear Mark: Coffee and Cancer, Beef Cheeks, Paleo Pancakes

Dear_Mark_Inline_PhotoFor today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering a few questions from readers. First, what do I make of the news that coffee sellers in California are going to start putting “may cause cancer” warnings on their labels? Is there anything to the cancer and coffee claims? Next, why didn’t we include beef cheeks in the “cheap cuts” post last week, despite being big fans of the cheek? After that, I explain why I included a recipe for fried scallion pancakes in last week’s Weekend Link Love.

Dean asked:

Hi Mark,

Did you hear that coffee sellers in California must now include cancer warnings on their products? Seems like you got out just in time!

Heh, you must be referring to this.

Yeah, it’s silly. No, it’s not a factor in my move from CA to Miami. Thanks to Prop 65 passing back in 1986, Californians see these cancer warnings everywhere. I suspect they mostly just tune them out at this point. I sure did.

Is there anything to this coffee-cancer stuff?

This has been studied extensively. From my reading of the literature—which isn’t definitive, since much of the evidence is epidemiological—coffee is protective against most types of cancer.

Coffee consumption has an inverse relationship with liver cancer incidence that persists through various confounding factors. Three coffee components, including caffeine, chlorogenic acid, and the diterpenes (which unfiltered coffee preserves and paper filters block) all favorably affect different aspects of the anti-tumorigenic cascade in the liver.

Postmenopausal women who drink four cups of coffee a day have a 10% lower risk of breast cancer. Most female coffee drinkers have a lower risk of breast cancer, except for perhaps carriers of the BRCA1 mutation.

The latest research shows that coffee consumption has an inverse relationship with endometrial cancer, both pre- and post-menopausal.

A recent meta-analysis finds that coffee consumption is probably related to a lower risk of gastric cancer, upending previous findings.

Sure, extracts taken from light roast coffee have higher anti-cancer activity against strains of oral and colon cancer—but the dark roast extracts are still anti-carcinogenic, just not as anti-carcinogenic as the light roasts. It’s a matter of degree.

Coffee targets the NRF2 pathway, which produces proteins that reduce oxidative stress, nullify toxins, and exert chemopreventive effects. NRF2 has been called the most important anti-aging pathway, as most of the maladies of aging correspond to reduced NRF2 activation. Many hormetic stressors—those sources of stress which actually improve our defenses and make us stronger—operate along the NRF2 pathway. That coffee activates it is a good thing.

The combination of overwhelming epidemiological evidence and suggestive mechanistic evidence means I’m not worried about coffee and cancer.

I bet you could make the case for putting a Prop 65 warning brand on infants as they pass through the birth canal—after all, sleep deprivation increases the risk of cancer.

I’ll cap this off by reminding everyone that coffee consumption has a protective relationship with all-cause mortality across ethnic lines.

Liver King pointed out:

You forgot beef cheeks… I don’t know a cheaper cut of meat that offers so much gelatin, deliciousness and tenderness… when prepared right! Wife puts in the Instapot for a few days with a bunch of cumin, onions and bacon. It’s reminiscent of a savory pulled pork done right. The sauce is essentially gravy.

Beef cheeks are one of my favorite cuts. I usually do mine in the Instant Pot with red wine, onions, carrots, tomato paste, and fish sauce until fork tender, then reduce. The sauce (or gravy, as you say) is unmatched.

Only thing is people are getting wise to them, and the cheeks are creeping up toward $9, $10 per pound.

Daniel said:

So, that scallion pancake recipe. Discs of fried cassava flour and arrowroot powder are paleo now? Please….

I get your point. Eating a bunch of fried flour on a regular basis is pretty much how most of the Western world and a growing proportion of the developing world got themselves into this obesity epidemic.

But we’re a different bunch.

Implicit in my recommendation of paleo-fied versions of otherwise unhealthy foods is the assumption that you shouldn’t eat them on a regular basis.

By any stretch of the imagination, these are better than the standard type. No gluten. No refined seed oils. And you have to work for them.

That’s a big one: They’re rather involved. You probably won’t make these on a regular basis, if only because the process to make them is so involved: hauling out multiple flours, kneading and flipping and rolling and pressing, then frying one at a time. Great for a special occasion, unfeasible as a staple food.

Which is the point.

That’s all for today, folks. Thanks for reading, thanks for writing, and thanks for asking such great questions. If you have anything to add for today’s questioners, or a question of your own, include it down below in the comments.

Take care and Grok on!


TAGS:  dear mark, toxins

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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30 thoughts on “Dear Mark: Coffee and Cancer, Beef Cheeks, Paleo Pancakes”

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  1. Thanks for the recommendation Mark! Next time, it’s with fish sauce. By the way, you’re looking at just over 6 and a half bucks per pound if you get these guys from my favorite domestic ranch… White Oak Pastures!

    Yes, there’s the shipping that factors in but if you plan ahead and you really stock up, it’s totally worth it!

  2. So Mark is moving to Miami? That caught me off guard. It is interesting to think of someone thriving after Malibu in Miami. The humidity alone is crushing.

      1. Amen. I’m getting out of California myself as soon as I am able.

  3. I thought that Mark moving to Miami was an April Fool’s joke or something… is it for real?

    Hard to believe, after years of reading about how awesome Malibu is.

    1. You can bet this was a tax move. And I don’t blame him.

      Florida has ZERO income tax. Saving 10% of your money every year is a huge amount, millions upon millions for a guy like Mark. And the real estate is significantly cheaper.

      However, the humidity is hell. Interested to see if the trade off is worth it.

  4. I’m with Daniel. Too many foods that were shunned, crept back to Paleo. Many don’t have will power and an occasional dish can easily become routine; although personally, I’m not concern, as I just don’t revisit that which I left behind.

  5. I want to drink coffee in the morning, but even one 12 ounce mug disrupts my sleep. Can I get the same benefits from decaf?

    1. I was wondering the same thing. Anything stronger than half-caf gives me a headache.

    2. I’m seconding this question. In the last 12 months I have become so sensitive to caffeine that coffee or even a small amount of chocolate in the afternoon mean I just can’t fall asleep for ages when I go to bed.

  6. I love lots of things about California but the nanny laws, regulations and court decisions can get absurd.

  7. “the diterpenes (which unfiltered coffee preserves and paper filters block)”

    What about espresso and ristretto, do these sorts of coffee have any diterpenes?

  8. Great article. I consume a few cups of coffee a day or more contigent on the day I am having. I favor dark roast and I am glad to hear it is a good choice.

  9. Don’t know about anyone else but even $6/lb is expensive for me. Me and my children get $160 each per month for food.

    1. That’s significantly more per month than I spend. I’m thankful for CAFO meat even if it doesn’t have optimal amounts of K2. .49 per lb chicken legs and a Restaurant Depot membership sure come in handy.

    1. He already did. I don’t know if he “officially” announced it or anything, but I started noticing him talking about being in Miami a few weeks back.

  10. Does dairy (casein) or other proteins taken with coffee bind to the beneficial stuff in coffee? I know you are not supposed to mix green tea with dairy because casein binds to catechins.

  11. Ma first thought… why would anyone move to Florida voluntarily?! LOL Taxes would explain it… barely.

  12. Does tea (green or black) have similar health benefits to coffee? I stopped drinking coffee years ago and switched to green tea because the caffeine from coffee was causing issues for me (I was terrible at regulating how much I drank, so I just quit cold turkey and have felt much better). Maybe I should give it another try.

    1. Yes, tea (both green and black) has many health benefits and doesn’t do a number on some of us the way coffee does. There’s nothing healthful about something that makes you nervous, jittery, or sick. I too switched to tea years ago because coffee was so hard on my system.

  13. I wonder if the labelling was meant for all the fancy coffees with sugar and other unknown ingredients. I believe Starbucks was mentioned and unless you drink coffee black it probably is cancerous

  14. F.Y.I. Mark moved to Florida so he could walk to everything – stores etc. He wrote about this before. It is much warmer in the winter in Florida as well.

    1. Why would anybody care where Mark lives? I’ve lived in both California and Florida and wouldn’t leave Colorado for either one of them. It’s all a matter of personal preference.

  15. Why all the criticism about Mark’s move? He already documented extensively the benefits of saunas so, as a beast, why not live and train in a sauna? That way he can also turn the PHC Masterclass into a die hard boot camp!

  16. Not sure where the best place for this question is so I’m gonna go for it here! Just got the book and starting the 21 day reset…I noticed one of the recipes in the book calls for cured prosciutto. But it clearly says earlier in the book to avoid cured meats. Help!

  17. Great article! Love to read your valuable recommendations on coffee and Paleo. Thanks a on for sharing these valuable information.

  18. Great article! Love to read your valuable recommendations on coffee.
    I’m a hard core coffee drinker. I’ve been into coffee now, for over few years(at least 5-6 yrs.).. Drinking regularly two times a day, at least. And, I still am in perfect health without any complaints(always been healthy as a horse except for some cough n cold).
    Coffee is one of the best sources of antioxidants. Given that antioxidants are intimately involved in the prevention of cellular damage — the common pathway for cancer, aging, and a variety of diseases, anything that counteracts free radicals should then have a negative correlation to cancer.