A lot has been said about coffee raising the cholesterol levels and while this has some grain of truth to it, various research studies carried out give inconsistent results and this has been a subject of much controversy.
The interactive effects of caffeinated beverages in various individuals are modulated by various factors some of which relate to lifestyle, age, risk factors (underlying health conditions) and personality characteristics.
To understand the whole concept of coffee raising the cholesterol levels in the blood, it's important to first distinguish between bad and good cholesterol and at what levels are they considered either desirable or unhealthy.
What levels of cholesterol are considered dangerous?
Before looking at the levels of cholesterol, it's worth noting that there are two major forms of cholesterol and lipoproteins found in the human blood. These are; Low-Density Lipoproteins (LDL) which are the bad cholesterol and the High-density Lipoproteins (HDL) or the good cholesterol.
According to Health.com, high amounts of LDL (above 100 mg/dL) combines with other substances in the blood to form sticky-plaque build ups on the walls of blood vessels. This causes narrowing and blockage of the arteries leading to heart complications. HDL, on the other hand, should be more than 40mg/dL to be considered sufficient.
The latter helps in picking up LDL and sending it to the liver to be broken down before it's excreted from the body. High levels of HDL guards and protects the lining of the arteries.
How does coffee raise cholesterol levels?
Maybe you're asking, how does coffee impact my blood lipids level, or even affect my heart's health? Well, the body is an integrated system that is sensitive to the slightest changes that take place in the tiniest building blocks making up our existence.
In an NCBI study on the effect of coffee consumption on Serum lipids (a form of LDL), it was concluded that intake of coffee, especially unfiltered coffee, contributes significantly to an increase of LDL-C, TC, and TG in the blood. The effects were also directly proportional to the level of intake or amount consumed.
According to Sciencedaily.com, Cafestol, a diterpenoid molecule found in coffee elevates the cholesterol levels by inhibiting a receptor in the intestinal lining that's critical to LDL regulation.
Further research indicates that coffee oils can decrease neutral sterols and bile acids which causes increased cholesterol levels. Cafestol has also been found to the most dominant dietary cholesterol agent in the human body.
Studies by various universities such as Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and the institute of health sciences, the Netherlands found that drinking five cups of unfiltered coffee per day (equivalent to 30 mg of Cafestol) for 4 weeks raises LDH levels in the blood by up to 8 percent. With all these research-based studies, it's important to note that removing caffeine from coffee doesn't remove Cafestol.
Should I drink coffee with my high cholesterol levels?
The answer to this question isn't that obvious since coffee comes in different types depending on the quality and how it's brewed. If I were to answer this question correctly, I would say that unless you're drinking high amounts of French press or unfiltered coffee daily; raised cholesterol beyond the current levels shouldn't be much of a worry.
While pro scientists and health bloggers advocate for total abstinence from caffeinated drinks especially those with significant levels of Cafestol, there is a different way of beating this unnatural restriction.
The approach of avoiding coffee suddenly will not lower your-already-high cholesterol plus the headaches from caffeine withdrawal can be more devastating. Taking filtered coffee in small quantities, doing regular exercises and following a low-fat, healthy diet are better measures to solving the problem.
Before taking any step to limit your coffee intake, first, make sure you've tested your blood cholesterol levels by visiting a doctor or buying the blood test kit. If your total cholesterol count is above 200 mg/dl, there's a need to be extra cautious of your health.
Studies and reports from Mayo Clinic have shown contrasting findings on the link between coffee and heart-related diseases. According to Mayo Clinic, there's no solid and acceptable connection between coffee and increased heart disease or even cancer.
According to this study, the researchers argued that earlier studies didn't consider other factors such as the high-risk behaviors common in some coffee lovers like lack of exercise and smoking. The researchers published an even unique finding that drinking coffee regularly could decrease mortality rate as it protects against diseases such as liver disease, depression, type 2 diabetes and Parkinson's.
Mitigating the effects of coffee on your cholesterol levels
From a common-sense point-of-view, anything good turns horrific when it surpasses what is considered to be safe or enough. Cholesterol is good, but higher levels than normal can be hazardous and this varies by age, gender, and weight. Adults often tend to have high cholesterol levels than children and women's cholesterol level drops through menopause while that of men relatively increases as they age.
Ruling out the fact that certain types of coffee mildly increases the cholesterol levels in the blood isn't a solution as this will only worsen the situation. People with high cholesterol levels should accept that a high intake of coffee daily has potential risks.
Caffeine can be great for stimulating certain parts of the brain before a rigorous exercise but the same benefits may not be true for a pregnant woman. Just like breastfeeding mothers need to be cautious about caffeine, people with LDL or those with a high level of Total Cholesterol should be wary of the type and amount of caffeine they take.
People who experience or report increased LDL levels due to excessive or regular coffee intake are often advised to cut back on coffee consumption or avoid it altogether.
The latter is often challenging and hard to follow through as the caffeine content is highly addictive. The bottom line of this is that your coffee drinking habit is probably fine and may even come with some benefits unless you're a profound coffee addict with underlying health issues.