What Is the Connection between Coffee and Cholesterol?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

The connection between coffee and cholesterol depends on the way coffee is prepared, and whether it is caffeinated or decaffeinated. Paper-filtered coffee has the least effect on cholesterol levels because it removes chemicals called diterpenes, which can increase them. Additionally, caffeine tends to block some of the negative effects of heightened cholesterol, making it a better choice than decaffeinated brews for some individuals.

A cup of coffee.
A cup of coffee.

It would have been easier to make the argument that coffee and cholesterol are always linked before the advent of the many coffee makers that provide paper filtration. Not too long ago, most people made their coffee with presses, boiling, or percolation. In each of these cases, the remaining diterpenes probably caused higher total cholesterol and increased triglycerides. Today, people who employ a non-paper filtration method, such as the French press, to prepare coffee are still likely to have elevated cholesterol levels, though the degree of elevation may depend on how much is consumed and other factors.

A stove-top coffee maker.
A stove-top coffee maker.

Paper filtration changed the connection between coffee and cholesterol because paper removes diterpenes. Also, milder coffees from the Arabica bean have become popular, and these have lower levels of the cholesterol-raising compound. Deprived of diterpenes, coffee alone doesn’t greatly impact cholesterol. Still, additions to the drink, like cream and creamers, or high fat foods consumed with it, may still increase low-density and high-density lipoproteins (LDLs and HDLs).

Ground coffee.
Ground coffee.

Plenty of individuals continue to drink coffee prepared in ways that may especially increase LDLs, or bad cholesterol. Any percolated, boiled, or French press brews, and most coffee house drinks that contain espresso have diterpenes. People wishing to sever the connection between coffee and cholesterol should opt for drip preparation methods with paper filtration instead.

A caffeinated drink, like espresso, will likely have a lesser effect on bad cholesterol than a decaffeinated drink.
A caffeinated drink, like espresso, will likely have a lesser effect on bad cholesterol than a decaffeinated drink.

Many individuals tout decaffeinated coffee as a healthier alternative to coffee that contains caffeine. There’s a connection between caffeine-laden coffee and cholesterol that shouldn’t be ignored when considering this matter. Caffeine reduces the negative effects of cholesterol.

Therefore, a caffeinated espresso or French press cup of coffee is likely to have a reduced effect on LDLs than would a decaffeinated drink. It also may protect the body and the brain from the negative impact of higher levels of cholesterol. On the other hand, caffeine raises blood pressure, posing a different type of risk for heart disease.

When evaluating the connection between coffee and cholesterol, it’s important to not view this relationship as the answer to regulating LDLs and HDLs. Coffee isn’t the only thing people consume, and the rest of the diet needs careful attention, too. Changing behaviors like smoking, excess drinking, and lack of exercise may also lead to better cholesterol control.

Coffee's cholesterol depends on how it was prepared, and whether it is caffienated or decaffienated.
Coffee's cholesterol depends on how it was prepared, and whether it is caffienated or decaffienated.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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