While ding some research on my last post on coffee induced dehydration I found an interesting set of stories on the risks of unfiltered coffee on one’s cholesterol levels.
First I came across an article published on NBC news discussing some of the basics of the findings. In short researchers in recent years have determined convincingly that people who drink coffee that is unfiltered are more likely to experience higher levels of total cholesterol.
Unfiltered coffee most commonly refers to french press coffee although it can also refer to pure espresso, moka, and Turkish coffees. Stovetop percolators also fit the description of unfiltered coffee.
NBC News reported the increases are due to coffee oils which are not filtered out of the coffee. Paper filters which are typically used in drip coffee makers remove the vast majority of oils from the final beverage. This is why the cholesterol increases are only noted in unfiltered coffee.
Now, being a coffee guy, I decided to dig a little deeper because I have almost completely stopped drinking filtered coffee in favor of stovetop espresso and french press. After all, it’s the oils in question here that us coffee guys want. It’s why we favor french press to drip coffee.
This article on Science Daily gets a bit more technical than the NBC News feature linked above. In it we find that researchers haven’t just found the oils in coffee cause increases in cholesterol but a particular compound called Cafestol is the main culprit to blame. It is found in the oils and according to Dr. David Moore, professor of molecular and cellular biology at BCM, and Dr. Marie-Louise Ricketts a post-doc student and author of study featured in the Journal of Molecular Endocrinology “cafestol is the most potent dietary cholesterol-elevating agent known”.
Basically this compound reduces the effects of three different genes in the liver which regulate cholesterol levels.
For the most part it takes a lot of unfiltered coffee to see the effect of increased cholesterol levels – about 5 cups a day every day for a month and even then the study found an increase in cholesterol of only 6-8% on average but for many people this is significant enough to warrant a change in coffee drinking practices.
For me I have low cholesterol as it is and my french press intake is usually around 16oz a day, sometimes slightly more. Even still this is still good information to know and it’s something I’m going to monitor over the years as new medical research comes out.