Coffee and Cholesterol: Risks and Benefits

Studies have identified a risk of increased serum cholesterol levels from coffee, although this may depend on the brewing method. Unfiltered coffee and espresso can raise cholesterol levels, while instant coffee and filter coffee are less likely to affect it. The risk of elevated serum cholesterol levels also depends on the amount of coffee a person drinks and their sensitivity to caffeine. This article discusses how certain oils in coffee can affect serum (blood) cholesterol levels, the risks and benefits of drinking coffee, and tips for managing cholesterol levels.

Can coffee raise cholesterol levels?

The results of studies on the link between coffee consumption and higher levels of serum cholesterol are mixed, according to a 2001 research review. A more recent study from 2016 suggests that coffee consumption is associated with lower levels of higher cholesterol, although the effects vary depending on the type of coffee and the gender of the individual. But according to older research dating back to 1997, it’s not the amount of caffeine in coffee that can affect cholesterol levels, but rather the oils naturally found in the coffee bean. These natural oils, also called diterpenes, are cafestol and kahweol. Both of these oils can raise total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels, although the amount of diterpenes in coffee varies by brewing method.

For example, if a person makes coffee using paper filters, most of the diterpenes remain in the filter. On the other hand, in unfiltered coffee, a greater proportion of the diterpenes passes into the coffee. Incidentally, Scandinavian brewed coffee, Turkish coffee can raise cholesterol levels, according to a 2011 study. Scandinavian coffee and Turkish coffee are unfiltered, while coffee made with a press (espresso) goes through a metallic filter that allows more diterpenes to pass through the infusion than paper filters.

Other types of coffee contain varying levels of diterpenes and therefore have different effects on cholesterol levels:

Espresso: This type of coffee contains about half the amount of diterpenes found in unfiltered coffee. Since people generally drink small portions of espresso, it is likely to have little effect on cholesterol.

Filtered coffee: It probably has little effect on cholesterol. But the research on this type of coffee is inconsistent.

Instant coffee: This type of coffee contains very few diterpenes, so it should not raise cholesterol levels.

Risks associated with coffee consumption

In addition to potentially raising cholesterol levels, coffee may pose other health risks. Caffeine, a naturally occurring psychoactive substance in coffee, can interact with a person’s medications. 400 milligrams of caffeine per day is estimated to be generally safe for health, but caffeine can have a number of clinically significant interactions with many medications. Some other beverages, such as energy drinks, also contain high levels of caffeine.

Risks related to drug interactions

A 2020 study found that coffee can interact with many medications due to its caffeine content. Care should also be taken when mixing a caffeinated beverage such as coffee with alcohol. This combination can cause a person to drink more alcohol than they realize and therefore experience more of alcohol’s harmful effects.

The risk of caffeine

The safe amount of caffeine is equivalent to four or five cups of coffee. However, some people are more sensitive to the effects of caffeine and may experience some of the following effects:

insomnia
rapid pulse
headache
anxiety
tremors
nausea
a feeling of unhappiness

Other sources of caffeine

Other drinks that contain caffeine are tea, soda and energy drinks. Tea and soft drinks generally contain less caffeine than coffee, while some energy drinks can contain two to three times more caffeine than a coffee drink.

The benefits of drinking coffee

Coffee has several potential benefits, including:

reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease
help protect cells from damage with its high antioxidant content
reduce the risk of death
reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in women.

In addition, caffeine can:

increase energy
help with weight loss
improve mental focus
good for the mood
improve athletic performance

Although cafestol and kahweol may have a negative effect on cholesterol, they may have some health benefits.

* Presse Santé strives to convey health knowledge in a language that is accessible to everyone. IN NO CIRCUMSTANCES can the information provided replace the advice of a healthcare professional.

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