If you're concerned about the fat and sugar content of coffee flavorings and sweeteners, you may have switched to drinking black coffee. Cholesterol, a waxy type of fat associated with some chronic diseases, is produced by your body and increases through the foods and beverages you consume. The caffeine found in coffee may affect cholesterol levels, but the link between these substances appears to be complicated.
Why Your Cholesterol Levels Are Important
Cholesterol tends to have a negative association; however, cholesterol isn't inherently good or bad. This naturally occurring substance keeps you healthy, reports the American Heart Association. But when cholesterol accumulates in your bloodstream, your risk of a blockage increases and can lead to a heart attack or stroke. There are two types of cholesterol: high-density lipoproteins or HDL and low-density lipoproteins or LDL. Harvard School of Public Health explains that LDL or "bad" cholesterol accumulates in your arteries. In contrast HDL or "good" cholesterol transports cholesterol out of the body, preventing accumulation.
Coffee, Caffeine and Cholesterol
Caffeine is commonly associated with coffee; however, coffee contains several other substances that can affect cholesterol levels. An article in "Current Opinion in Lipidology" explains that diterpenes, substances that appear in coffee made by boiling beans or grounds, are associated with increased cholesterol levels. The researchers suggest that boiling, rather than filtering coffee, allows these substances into the beverage and can increase your risk of cardiovascular problems. In contrast, Dr. Rob van Dam of the Harvard School of Public Health explains that consumption of as many of six cups of coffee daily has not been found to increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. He adds that drinking filtered coffee can help remove the chemicals that can raise LDL cholesterol levels.
Caffeine and Cardiovascular Disease
Caffeine is a natural stimulant that affects your nervous system and can cause adverse effects such as anxiety and insomnia. The American Heart Association explains that while caffeine can increase the work of your kidneys and increases your heart rate temporarily, consuming moderate amounts doesn't appear to be associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. In fact, according to Harvard Medical School, decaffeinated coffee has been found to be associated with increased cholesterol. This effect may be related to the differences in beans used to make caffeinated versus decaffeinated coffee.
Research has not shown a direct link between black coffee consumption and increased cholesterol. Coffee consumed in moderate amounts of one to two cups a day does not appear to contribute to chronic illness, according to the American Heart Association. Eliminating certain additives such as cream, milk or sugar from coffee reduces saturated fat that can raise cholesterol levels. Coffee is also a source of antioxidant compounds that can remove harmful free radicals from your body and provide protection from cardiovascular disease.
- Harvard School of Public Health; "Fats and Cholesterol: Out With the Bad, In with the Good"
- "Current Opinion in Lipidology"; "Coffee, Caffeine and Coronary Heart Disease"; Marilyn C. Cornelis, et al.; 2007
- American Heart Association; "Caffeine and Cardiovascular Disease"
- Harvard Medical School; "Coffee's Health Benefits"
- American Heart Association; "About Cholesterol"
- Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University; "Coffee"
- University of Maryland Medical Center; "Caffeine in the Diet"
- Harvard School of Public Health; Ask the Expert: Coffee and Health; Dr. Rob van Dam; 2011