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As a widely consumed beverage maté is generally assumed to be entirely safe. However, this may be an incorrect assumption. Numerous studies have found associations between high consumption of maté in South American and increased rates cancer of the esophagous, mouth, throat, and larynx. 1 2 It is widely stated that this increased risk is entirely due to the practice of drinking maté at very high temperatures. However, the underlying evidence is not so clear-cut. The data actually suggest that at least some of this increased risk is be due to the maté itself, rather than the temperature at which it is consumed. 3 In addition, maté consumption has also been associated with increased risk of kidney and lung cancer, which would not be expected to be influenced by beverage temperature. 4 Finally, there is some direct evidence that mate has carcinogenic effects. 5 Putting all this information together, it does appear that maté is at the very least slightly carcinogenic. However, so is charred hamburger; moderate use of maté is not likely to significantly increase cancer risk.
Other potential problems with maté relate to its caffeine content. Potential side effects of caffeine include heartburn, gastritis, insomnia, anxiety, and heart arrythmias (benign palpitations or more serious disturbances of heart rhythm.) 6 All drug interactions that can occur with caffeine would be expected to occur with maté as well (see next section).
Maximum safe doses have not been established in pregnant or nursing women, young children, or people with severe liver or kidney disease.
Interactions You Should Know About
If you are taking:
- MAO inhibitors : The caffeine in maté could cause dangerous drug interactions.
- Stimulant drugs such as Ritalin: The stimulant effects of maté might be amplified.
- Drugs to prevent heart arrythmias or treat insomnia , heartburn , ulcers , or anxiety : The caffeine in maté might interfere with their action.
- Goldenberg D, Lee J, Koch WM, Kim MM, Trink B, Sidransky D, Moon CS. Habitual risk factors for head and neck cancer. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 131(6):986-93.
- Sewram V, De Stefani E, Brennan P, Boffetta P. Maté consumption and the risk of squamous cell esophageal cancer in uruguay. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 12(6):508-13.
- Goldenberg D, Golz A, Joachims HZ. The beverage maté: a risk factor for cancer of the head and neck. Head Neck. 25(7):595-601.
- De Stefani E, Fierro L, Mendilaharsu M, Ronco A, Larrinaga MT, Balbi JC, Alonso S, Deneo-Pellegrini H. Meat intake, 'mate' drinking and renal cell cancer in Uruguay: a case-control study. Br J Cancer. 78(9):1239-43.
- Leitao AC, Braga RS. Mutagenic and genotoxic effects of mate ( Ilex paraguariensis ) in prokaryotic organisms. Braz J Med Biol Res. 1995;27:1517–5.
- Cannon ME, Cooke CT, McCarthy JS. Caffeine-induced cardiac arrhythmia: an unrecognised danger of healthfood products. Med J Aust. 174(10):520-1.