Coffee and cholesterol

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: February 8th, 2006
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Black, sweetened or creamed, coffee is consumed the world over. But some not-so-tasty health effects can be brewed along with that rich aroma… namely, high cholesterol.

Findings presented at the American Heart Association’s annual Scientific Sessions reveal coffee’s cholesterol-raising qualities apply mostly to decaffeinated brew, though it’s not the caffeine itself that’s to blame.

Researchers studied nearly two-hundred people who were divided into three groups: caffeine, decaf and coffee-free drinkers. They found significant increases in “bad” cholesterol levels in the decaf drinkers, and mild increases in certain fatty acids because of high amounts of organic compounds that naturally occur in plant oils. These are more abundant in the Robusta species of coffee beans, which most decaffeinated coffee is made from. Much less is found in the Arabica coffee plant, brewed for most caffeinated coffee.

Fortunately, standard filters remove most of these oils. People who drink espresso or use a French press are exposed to the highest amounts.

But before you switch to regular coffee, take note of the study’s other findings. Participants’ blood pressure levels were monitored for twenty-four hours, and the caffeinated coffee consistently increased blood-pressure levels, while decaf had no effect.

Researchers point out that before you kick the habit and dump the joe, other factors have a bigger impact on overall heart health, such as smoking, exercise and diet. And you might perk up to hear about one potential health benefit in coffee… lots of antioxidants, thought to help protect the heart and reduce cancer risks.