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Coffee and Cholesterol - Can It Lower Your Cholesterol?

Coffee May Have a Bad Impact On Your Cholesterol


Updated May 28, 2014

Early morning boost
Nick Dolding/The Image Bank/Getty Images
Updated May 28, 2014
When looking for good cholesterol lowering foods, you may want to skip coffee - in fact, studies are showing that coffee and cholesterol lowering may not mix.

Coffee is a popular beverage that is heavily consumed in the United States. With a coffee shop on practically every corner, it is difficult to miss the variety or the aroma of coffees. Coffees can be prepared in two main ways: filtered and unfiltered. Filtered coffees are the most common mode of preparation in the United States and involve brewing the coffee through a filter. Unfiltered coffees, often known as “boiled” coffees, do not employ a filter and include espresso, Turkish coffees , and French press coffees. Coffee contains many ingredients, most notably caffeine, chlorgenic acid, and chemicals called diterpenes. Many studies have examined the health benefits of coffee, paying particularly close attention to caffeine. Some studies have even suggested that drinking coffee may prevent diseases such as type II diabetes mellitus, Parkinson’s disease, and certain types of liver cancer. Can lowering cholesterol be added to the list of benefits that coffee can offer?

The findings may surprise you…

To date, coffee consumption is not directly associated with heart disease. However, two diterpenes found in high amounts in unfiltered coffee, cafestol and kahweol, have been found to actually raise cholesterol levels. These studies examined different types of unfiltered coffee, as well as coffee oil. Most studies have indicated that individuals consuming roughly 60 milligrams of cafestol (equivalent to ten cups of unfiltered, French press coffee or two grams of coffee oil) may raise total cholesterol levels by an average of about 20 percent. This is largely due to an increase in low density lipoprotein (LDL) levels and triglyceride levels. High density lipoproteins (HDL) do not appear to be affected.

Although the mechanism by which cafestol and kahweol raised cholesterol were largely unknown, a study performed on mice at Baylor College in Houston, indicates that this compound may activate a protein called farsenoid X receptor (FXR) in the intestine, which affects a gene called fibroblast growth factor 15 (FGF15). When this gene is activated, it can reduce the effects of three genes in the liver involved in cholesterol regulation. In other words, cholesterol levels increase when cafestol and kahweol are present due to their ability to activate this gene.

So, if you are trying to watch your cholesterol levels, you may want to lower your consumption of unfiltered coffee beverages. Brewing coffee through a filter appears to remove most of the cafestol and kahweol components in coffee. Additionally, additives to coffee such as cream may also contribute to fat content and raise cholesterol levels.


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Bonita JS, Mandarano M, Shuta D. Coffee and cardiovascular disease: in vitro, cellular, animal, and human studies. Pharmacol Res. 2007 Mar;55(3):187-98.

Higdon JV, Frei B. Coffee and health: a review of recent human research. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2006;46(2):101-23.

Ranheim T, Halvorsen B. Coffee consumption and human health—benefit or detrimental? Mechanisms for effects of coffee consumption on different risk factors for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes mellitus. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2005;49(3):274-84.

Ricketts ML, Boekschoten MV, Kreeft AJ, et al. The cholesterol-rasing factor from coffee beans, cafestol, as an agonist ligand for the farnesoid and pregane X receptors. Mol Endocrinol. 2007 Apr 24 epub.

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