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What is Caffeic Acid?

By Christy Bieber
Updated May 21, 2024
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Even though caffeic acid can be found in coffee, it is unrelated to caffeine. Together with its derivative caffeic acid phenethyl ester (CAPE), it is a naturally occurring organic compound that is the product of many plants, including coffee beans. This substance is an antioxidant and it can also act as a carcinogenic inhibitor.

Antioxidants, including caffeic acid, are essential in preventing diseases such as cancer or coronaries. Antioxidants consist of a molecule that is able to slow or even prevent oxidation of other molecules. When oxidation occurs in the body, it produces free radicals that are capable of damaging cells. Antioxidants terminate this reaction by removing free radicals that can be encouraged by smoking, stress, infections eating fried foods, excessive sunbathing, or exposure to pollution and x-rays.

When the body has low levels of antioxidants, damage or death to cells can happen via a process called oxidative stress. This stress is a known contributor to the onset of many diseases, however it is not 100 percent understood whether it is the cause or the consequence of disease. The most common diseases are strokes and degenerative diseases.

Caffeic acid also inhibits carcinogens. Carcinogens refer to any substances or agents that are involved in the promotion of cancer. There are any number of substances that can cause carcinogenic activity, but usually they are all related to the amount of radiation they emit.

Carcinogens are capable of increasing the risk of cancer by altering or damaging DNA at a cellular level. The result is that DNA damage cannot be repaired and this can lead to cell death. If this happens, the cells can become cancerous. While carcinogens do not cause cancer on their own, they do promote the activity of carcinogens that can cause cancer.

Once a carcinogen has entered the body, the body attempts to eliminate it by making it more water soluble so that it can be removed. This happens through a process called biotransformation. Yet the process itself can actually convert a less toxic carcinogen into one that is more toxic without carcinogenic inhibitors. The addition of carcinogen inhibitors, like caffeic acid, helps promote and maintain health by preventing biotransformation and inhibiting the production of carcinogens.

Caffeic acid is found in coffee beans. The levels of antioxidants found in this acid are in line with those found in fruits, nuts, oils and other healthy foods.

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Discussion Comments
By anon307250 — On Dec 04, 2012

Why is caffeic acid on California's Prop 65 list as a cancer causing agent?

By anon261483 — On Apr 16, 2012

Interesting info about caffeic acid, but I came to this site after reading in an article in the New World Encyclopedia that caffeic acid itself was found to be carcinogenic (at least in mice). It was in an article about dandelions and their health benefits.

By anon253485 — On Mar 09, 2012

So you have never seen a car rust or a piece of fruit turn brown??

By anon127921 — On Nov 17, 2010

Compelling evidence for free radicals does exist, but in fact, no clinician has ever seen a free radical inside living tissue. The whole "oxidative stress" theory is just that, unsettled science. though nowadays it has become more of the "official view" out there.

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