Every day, millions of people around the world start their day with a cup of coffee. According to a group of Jordanian researchers, this would increase cholesterol levels, resulting in an increase risk of cardiovascular diseases.

After water, coffee might just be the most common drink on the planet. Billions of cups of coffee are consumed per year around the globe. Some people even drink more than three cups per day. But is coffee even good for you? How does it affect your cholesterol?

To find an answer to this question, the scientists divided 117 male participants between 18 and 26 years old into two groups. They compared the cholesterol levels of a group of heavy coffee drinkers (three or more cups per day) with a group of moderate drinkers (2 or fewer cups per day). In the group of heavy coffee drinkers, the total cholesterol level averaged 196 mg/dl. Among moderate coffee drinkers this was 177 mg/dl. Normal total cholesterol levels are below 190 mg/dl.

Remarkably for both groups, smokers had lower cholesterol levels, whether they drank coffee or not. The authors thus conclude that drinking coffee raises cholesterol levels more than smoking.

It’s not the first time that coffee was the subject of such a study. Along with tea, coffee is one of the most studied beverages. The influence of coffee on cholesterol levels was indeed the subject of many discussions in the 1990s. Some studies showed an increase in cholesterol levels, others did not.

Coffee beans contain two fatty substances, namely cafestol and kahweol. Both substances can raise cholesterol levels. The amount of cafestol and kahweol present in a cup of coffee depends on the method of preparation: the more you filter the coffee, the less cholesterol-raising substances will be in the cup.

  • Boiled coffee contains on average 3 mg cafestol and 4 mg kahweol per cup of 150 ml. Turkish coffee and French-press coffee have similar concentrations.
  • Also for mocha and espresso coffee, the concentrations are similar to those of boiled coffee. People usually drink smaller amounts of these preparations, therefore the cholesterol-raising effect is minimal.
  • Filtered coffee, percolated coffee and instant coffee contain virtually no fatty substances and are therefore very low cholesterol increasing substances.
  • When using coffee pods, filter the coffee through the enveloping layer of paper.
  • Coffee capsules, on the other hand, are not filtered. As a result, this coffee contains slightly more cholesterol-raising substances. It’s best not to drink more than three to four capsules a day.

The new Jordanian Study only investigated the effects of boiled coffee. It is therefore logical that the cholesterol level slightly increases.

Moreover, the researchers found that smokers had lower cholesterol levels in this study. This is probably due to differences in eating habits between the two groups. The smokers may be snacking less.

Elena Mars

Elena writes part-time for the Scientific Origin, focusing mostly on health-related issues.