I think most of us would be horrified by the idea that coffee may actually contribute to high cholesterol levels. It is one of the most popular hot drinks in the world, and many people simply can’t start their day without a cup or two of strong coffee. Are you going to have to resort to drinking green tea? Hopefully, that won’t be necessary.
So, is there a link between coffee and cholesterol? Anything to be concerned about? I launched an investigation to evaluate the claims and see if there is any truth in it. Is it still safe to drink as much coffee as you want if you struggle with high cholesterol levels? Let’s see.
We’ll start with findings by Dr. Michael Klag of the John Hopkins University school in Baltimore. Dr. Klag and his team reviewed multiple studies on cholesterol and how coffee affects it. This was back in 2001.
What Did They Learn?
They found that drinking up to 6 cups of coffee per day does indeed raise LDL levels (the “bad cholesterol), but here’s the important part: these cholesterol increases could only be linked to unfiltered coffee.
The culprit, contrary to common belief, is not caffeine. Instead, it is down to oils found in coffee called terpenes (in this case called cafestol). Terpenes are organic hydrocarbons also found in various forms in, for example, cannabis plants.
Coffee filters remove much of this substance, so that’s why there is less of a link between filtered coffee and cholesterol than there is between unfiltered coffee.
What exactly is unfiltered coffee? Any coffee that doesn’t run through a filter (for example, coffee made in a French press, as well as espresso and so on) qualifies as unfiltered coffee. Most drip coffee machines these days feature filters, so if you get your coffee primarily from those, you have less to worry about.
Instant coffee, of course, also contain a lot less cafestol. Most coffee lovers scoff at instant coffee though, so we’ll just pretend I never mentioned it, shall we?
So, how high is the risk?
As it turns out, not that high. While you should take care when consuming unfiltered coffee, the risk is still lower than that posed by unhealthy habits like smoking or obesity.
So, it’s not looking too bad for coffee lovers at the moment. Stick to filtered coffee if you drink a lot of coffee, otherwise just keep your unfiltered coffee intake to moderate levels.
But let’s look around a bit more to see what else we can learn about coffee and cholesterol.
On his website, Dr. Andrew Weil speaks about the results of a more recent study (2008) done by Harvard researchers. This study followed more than 100,000 participants, monitoring their health, and found that even six cups of coffee a day had no serious health impact on any of them, and significantly not in terms of cardiovascular disease.
This is excellent news for coffee lovers, so at this point we’re heading into a very positive result for coffee. Let’s see what else we can find.
Whoops. Not good news.
Researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine again highlights cafestol as a culprit in their studies on the subject. Dr. David Moore from the College even went as far as to state that cafestol is the “most potent dietary cholesterol-elevating agent known”.
A study from Amsterdam finds that consuming 5 cups of coffee brewed in a French press every day can raise blood cholesterol by as much as 8% over four weeks.
While this is getting confusing, we’re still at a point where we can say filtered coffee is quite safe. So what do we do with all this information?
Firstly. while it’s clear that coffee can elevate cholesterol levels, it’s not something that should cause you huge worry. If you are a big coffee drinker and consume around 5 cups or more of unfiltered coffee every day, just monitor your cholesterol levels for a while to see what effect it has on your body. Everyone is different, after all.
Secondly, if there is cause for concern, stick to filtered coffee brewed with the drip method, instead of using French presses or espresso pulls. This way you still get to enjoy plenty of coffee, but in the knowledge that most of that problematic cafestol gets stuck in the filter (easily outsmarted, this cafestol!) and doesn’t find its way to your system.
Coffee and Cholesterol – Cause for concern?
For me, coffee is not a big concern with regards to cholesterol levels. It can be a contributing factor, and probably more so if you’re already not indulging in a very healthy lifestyle or diet. For most people, moderation is the key and should be enough to remove any cause for concern. Enjoy filtered coffee guilt-free, otherwise just monitor your levels and take action accordingly.
If you find controlling your cholesterol is a constant struggle, try a natural supplement like natural supplement like Choleslo to help keep everything at a healthy balance.