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.
Update: I’ve been digging deeper…
Can French Press Coffee Increase Your Cholesterol?
Before we dig deeper into the effects of coffee and cholesterol increase, let’s pause for a while and talk about this growing trend among coffee lovers – French press. The Europeans have been using this method of making coffee for a long time and they feel that the coffee from a French press has a bolder and better taste. After all, coffee is unfiltered and you can control the temperature of the water you will use.
If you think that boiling water is good for coffee, you are dead wrong. Boiling water will over-extract coffee and cause it to become dry and bitter. The perfect water temperature is about 195 degree Fahrenheit to 205 degrees Fahrenheit (80 degrees Celsius).
Coffee is arguably the most drank liquid in the world, aside from water. Every morning, billions of people could not start a day without a good cup of joe. In between their activities during the day, coffee lovers cannot help but grab another cup or two. Aside from a morning booster, coffee is also a common drink among people who want to catch up with friends and relatives. Even business meetings have made coffee a staple drink.
If you love to drink French press coffee, you might want to consider the findings associated with unfiltered coffee and your cholesterol level. According to a study, consumption of cafestol and kahweol, compounds common in coffee, may contribute to the rise in LDL cholesterol, or bad cholesterol.
Additional Research into French Press Coffee and Cholesterol
Without a filter, some of the oily substances found in coffee beans, called diterpenes, wind up in your cup. Coffee aficionados say these oils make the brew taste better. But you should know that diterpenes have been shown to have a negative impact on health. “Five to eight cups a day of unfiltered coffee may actually raise your ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol,” says Dr. Eric Rimm, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
In another study, researchers from Baylor College of Medicine showed that another compound found in coffee beans can trigger a receptor in our intestinal pathway that may produce more LDL or bad cholesterol.
According to Dr. David Moore, professor of molecular and cellular biology at BCM, and Dr. Marie-Louise Ricketts, a postdoctoral student, cafestol is the most potent dietary cholesterol-elevating agent known.
Meanwhile, Dr. Martijn B. Katan of Vriye of Univeriteit Amsterdam, Institute for Health Sciences, The Netherlands, indicated that consuming five cups of French press coffee per day (30 milligrams of cafestol) for four weeks raises cholesterol in the blood 6 to 8 percent.
The Popularity of the French Press
French press is now readily available in the market. You can even find one in your favorite coffee shop. You can use cold water or hot water (with the right temperature) and coarsely ground coffee beans.
Let the ground coffee beans steep for at least 3 minutes. You press an attached mesh plunger from the top of the pitcher to the bottom to strain the liquid and trap the coffee grounds.
The French press also gained fame because of the taste of its coffee output. Because French press has no filter, some of the natural oils found in coffee beans are retained and you can see a film of oil in your cup of coffee.
Coffee Drinking – Pros and Cons
Coffee, fresh and brewed, has been studied and proven to contain healthy benefits.
It contains magnesium, potassium, and niacin caffeine, which in small amounts can reduce fatigue and improve alertness and concentration potent compounds such as chlorogenic acid and polyphenols, which have antioxidant properties that help prevent cell damage.
The combination of these compounds can help reduce risk of diabetes and obesity. Coffee has also been associated as anti-aging drink.
However, keep in mind that the coffee you drink should be fresh and brewed. Also, limit the addition of sugar, creamer and whipped cream. If you enjoy drinking coffee topped with double cream, chocolate syrup, and candy sprinkles, you are in big trouble of increasing your cholesterol level.
On the other hand, some health experts argue that the presence of caffeine may not be always beneficial to other people. Too much caffeine — more than 300 milligrams per day — may lead to insomnia, nervousness, heart palpitations, and the jitters.
Keep in mind that anything in excess is not good for the body. If you love coffee and cannot live without it, remember to drink in moderation so you can get the most benefit out of every cup.
Should you continue to use a French press?
If you choose to drink unfiltered, pressed coffee, health experts recommend that you keep an eye on your cholesterol levels, to make sure your LDL levels don’t rise over time. And keep your pressed coffee habit in check: stick to no more than four cups per day. You should also limit your intake of filtered coffee to no more than five cups per day.
Remember, too, that some of the biggest risks of coffee come from what you may add to it: cream, sugar, or sugary syrup. These add saturated fat and empty calories to your diet, boost your blood sugar, and promote weight gain. So be careful about what you put into your cup.