Coffee and Cholesterol

A team from John Hopkin University has found that drinking 6 cups of Joe a day can have a marked increase in the level of LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol counts. Now most of you probably don't drink six cups of java in a given day, but if you drink a lot of espresso, French press, or percolated coffee, it might be wise to have your cholesterol levels checked.

Okay...lets see a show of hands...what causes the rise in cholesterol levels associated with coffee drinking? You...yes you with the sleepy look on your face. Your answer is caffeine...that's what most people would say, but no, it's not caffeine. Terpenes, a type of oil in coffee, cause the rise in cholesterol levels. Filters help remove the terpenes, thus reducing coffee's effect on cholesterol.

This is not to say that filtered coffee has no effect on increased cholesterol levels.  A test group in Sweden that gave up filtered coffee for a few weeks also had a drop in their serum cholesterol levels. However, filtered coffee still had less of an effect on cholesterol levels.

Of course, these finding do not point to coffee as being the only culprit where cholesterol levels are concerned.  Other factors such as diet, genetics, amount of coffee consumed, and smoking should also to be taken into consideration.  You might also want to think about the amount of cream and sugar your adding to your cup of brown elixir.

Please remember folks...this is just the latest study to be released on the effects of coffee on health.  There are new studies being released all the time about both the benefits and risk of consuming the brown brew . Use your own judgment when weighing the good and bad effects of drinking your favorite morning beverage.

Amy is a regular contributor to CoffeeCrew.Com



The effects of drinking different types of coffee on blood lipid levels including total, low density lipoprotein (LDL) and high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol have been reviewed (1). The authors summarised the evidence that the diterpenes cafestol and kahweol are the cholesterol-raising factors in coffee and classified coffee brews as containing low, moderate or high levels of diterpenes.

Filtered coffee and instant coffee contain low levels of diterpenes. In some intervention trials, neither filtered coffee (2) nor instant coffee (3) had any effect on blood lipid levels. In one intervention trial, however, filtered coffee elevated both LDL- and HDL-cholesterol levels so that the ratio of LDL to HDL and hence the risk of cardiovascular disease did not change (4). Mocha coffee, common in Italy and Spain, and Espresso coffee contain moderate levels of diterpenes. Intervention trials have demonstrated that neither Mocha coffee (5) nor Espresso coffee (6) had any effect on total, LDL or HDL cholesterol levels. Boiled coffee and cafetiere coffee contain high levels of diterpenes. Intervention trials have demonstrated that both boiled coffee (2) and cafetiere coffee (7) raise total and LDL-cholesterol levels. However, the second of these studies has been criticised (8, 9) because the effect was small and within the normal diurnal and seasonal variation in cholesterol levels, the effect was of marginal statistical significance and there was evidence at the end of the 24-week study that cholesterol levels were falling again implying adaptation to coffee intake.

The caffeine content of coffee does not appear to have any influence on blood lipid levels. An intervention trial has shown that consumption of decaffeinated coffee did not lower total or LDL-cholesterol levels (10) and a cross-sectional study was unable to show any association between caffeine intake and total, LDL- or HDL-cholesterol (11). 

A meta-analysis of intervention trials published prior to December 1998 on the effects of coffee on blood lipid levels was published in 2001 (12). The authors identified twenty- three papers but excluded nine from their analysis due to design faults. A significant dose response relationship between consumption of all types of coffee and total or LDL cholesterol levels was shown. They observed greater effects in subjects with hyperlipidaemia or when either caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee or boiled and filtered coffee were compared.   

It can be concluded that heavy consumption of boiled coffee but not filtered coffee elevates blood total and LDL cholesterol levels. This effect is more obvious in hyperlipidaemic subjects. However, the clinical, statistical and long-term significance of the effects of boiled coffee on blood lipid levels has been questioned.  Although more common in Scandinavia and the Middle East, drinking boiled coffee is comparatively rare in most countries.

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