Does Coffee Raise Cholesterol Levels?

by Colin Carmichael

Does coffee raise cholesterol levels and put you at higher cardiovascular risk?

Coffee and Cholesterol

Will drinking this cup of coffee raise your cholesterol?

Millions of coffee drinkers are curious and want some assurances that their daily cup of caffeine isn't going to promote the clogging of their arteries.

Previous research has revealed that French press and other unfiltered coffee can have a negative effect on blood lipids.

But what about drinking filtered coffee?

That's what researchers in Sweden set to find out in a recent controlled study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Over 100 participants took part in a coffee drinking experiment that consisted of four phases.

Phase 1: Abstain from drinking coffee entirely. (3 weeks)

Phase 2: Drink approximately 4 cups of filtered, brewed coffee daily. (4 weeks)

Phase 3: Once again, abstain from coffee. (3 weeks)

Phase 4: Back to drinking 4 cups of filtered, brewed coffee each day. (4 weeks)

What happened?

Does Coffee Raise Cholesterol Levels?

A majority of the participants showed similar changes in blood lipids. In the two coffee abstention periods, 73 of 120 and 83 of 116 participants showed a decrease in serum cholesterol. Coffee drinking resulted in increasing serum cholesterol values in 81 of 120 participants in the first period, and in 64 of 116 the participants in the second coffee period.

Based on these results … roughly speaking … you have about a two-thirds chance that coffee consumption is affecting your cholesterol levels if you’re drinking as much as 4 cups a day.

Because of the previous research with a stronger coffee-cholesterol connection if the coffee is unfiltered, the authors of the study suggest that the quality of the filter may impact the effect that coffee consumption has on cholesterol levels.

By no means, should this study be considered definitive.

During the periods where they abstained from coffee, the participants were allowed to replace the coffee with other caffeinated beverages.

So did participants replace their daily coffee ritual with fresh water or a healthy herbal tea?

Or was the coffee replaced a highly caffeinated energy drink or soda pop?

Those differences … which could have a major impact on cholesterol … weren't factored into the study.

So should you change your coffee drinking?

I haven’t seen anything definitive enough for me to place coffee on the “no-no” list when it comes to your cholesterol.

Based on previous findings, here are some general guidelines to follow:

If your cholesterol numbers need improving and you drink unfiltered coffee, you may want to start drinking filtered.

And if you drink 4 or more cups a day, you may want to cut back.

Personally, I believe that the downfall of coffee lies more in the daily habit-forming effect the caffeine has on your body vs. any negative effect it has on your cholesterol or cardiovascular health.

As with so many other foods or beverages … moderation is important.

If you think you have friends wondering "does coffee raise cholesterol levels?", then you might want to pass this story along by clicking the LIKE button below to share it on Facebook.

> European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2003) 57, 1164–1168. doi:10.1038/sj.ejcn.1601668
Photo courtesy of Julius Schorzman

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