Can caffeine raise your LDL cholesterol?

At typical intakes, caffeine doesn’t raise your risk of heart disease.

But some methods of brewing coffee—regular or decaf—could harm your heart by raising your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.

Fortunately, that’s not the way Americans typically drink theirs.

How does coffee affect your LDL cholesterol?

“When coffee is prepared using a drip-filter method, a compound called cafestol remains in the filter and doesn’t make its way into your cup,” van Dam explains.

And it’s cafestol that raises LDL. (No one has tested whether wire mesh filters can trap cafestol as well as paper does.)

In coffee made with a French press or boiled (like Scandinavian or Turkish coffee), the cafestol isn’t filtered out. Love a latte? Brewing espresso filters out about half the cafestol.

The rise in LDL from unfiltered coffee isn’t trivial.

In one study, 64 Dutch adults were randomly assigned to a no-coffee control group or to drink 30 oz. (nearly 4 cups) of either filtered coffee or unfiltered coffee every day. After 11 weeks, the average LDL level of the unfiltered-coffee drinkers was 16 points higher than the level of the filtered-coffee drinkers.

How much unfiltered coffee is too much?

“It’s difficult to establish a clear cutoff,” says van Dam. “But each additional cup seems to increase LDL more.”

His advice: “For people with elevated LDL levels, it seems prudent to avoid drinking unfiltered coffee daily and to try switching to another preparation method.”

That French press? Save it for the occasional treat.

Photo: Kaamilah Mitchell/CSPI.

The information in this post first appeared in the March 2021 issue of Nutrition Action Healthletter.


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