Coffee and Cholesterol: Is There a Link

Coffee and Cholesterol: Is There a Link?

What is Cafestol?

Is there any link between coffee and high cholesterol levels? If so, why do some studies show no effect while others show a positive association?

To answer these questions, it is necessary to review the effects of caffeine on blood lipids. Caffeine acts primarily through its ability to increase heart rate (HR) and blood pressure (BP). However, other mechanisms may also contribute to the increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), such as by increasing platelet aggregation or decreasing HDL (“good”) cholesterol.

The effects of caffeine are dose dependent. At low doses, it increases HR and BP but not heart rate variability (HRV). At higher doses, it causes both HR and BP to rise. When caffeine is consumed with meals, it increases blood glucose levels.

Because of the large amounts of carbohydrates in most foods, coffee contains a substantial amount of carbohydrate. Therefore, when ingested together with food, caffeine can cause a rapid spike in blood sugar levels. This results in a transient elevation in blood glucose concentrations that then rapidly returns to normal within several hours. However, if coffee is consumed after eating (e.g., before bedtime), the elevated blood glucose concentration persists into the next day or even longer because insulin resistance occurs during sleep [1].

Caffeine can affect blood lipid levels in several ways, such as by increasing oxidative stress and inflammation. It is well established that moderate coffee consumption increases total cholesterol (TC) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) but decreases high-density lipoprotein (HDL), which may increase the risk of coronary heart disease. As a result, there has been a long-standing controversy over whether coffee consumption is beneficial or detrimental to cardiovascular health.

Coffee contains large amounts of cafestol and kahweol, diterpenes that are structurally related to cholesterol. These components are present in the oily layer that floats on top of coffee when it is brewed and can be removed by paper filters; however, they also have beneficial properties.

Sources & references used in this article:

Coffee, cholesterol, and colon cancer: is there a link. by BK Jacobsen, DS Thelle – British Medical Journal (Clinical …, 1987 – ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

Coffee and cholesterol in epidemiological and experimental studies by DS Thelle, S Heyden, JG Fodor – Atherosclerosis, 1987 – Elsevier

Coffee consumption and serum cholesterol by B Davanzo, L Santoro, A Nobili, C Lavecchia – Preventive medicine, 1993 – Elsevier

Coffee: Facts and controversies by GM Etherton, MS Kochar – Archives of Family Medicine, 1993 – nebraska.pure.elsevier.com

The Tromsö heart study: does coffee raise serum cholesterol? by DS Thelle, E Arnesen, OH Førde – New England Journal of …, 1983 – Mass Medical Soc

Coffee and tea consumption in relation to the risk of large bowel cancer: a review of epidemiologic studies by L Rosenberg – Cancer letters, 1990 – Elsevier

Coffee intake and elevated cholesterol and apolipoprotein B levels in men by PT Williams, PD Wood, KM Vranizan… – JAMA: the journal of …, 1985 – ncbi.nlm.nih.gov