Can Coffee Raise Your Cholesterol

To say that I love my coffee would be an understatement. Some may even call me a bit of a coffee snob. I buy higher quality whole beans. And I prefer to grind my beans fresh with every brewed pot. A fresh “cup o’ joe” is a real pleasure for me any time of day. With all that being said I needed to find out if coffee can raise your cholesterol levels.

I had heard something about coffee raising your cholesterol before, but I’d never given it much thought.

Till now.

Since finding out that my cho levels are in the 260’s, I’m doing some personal experimentation to find out just how hard it is to control this stuff with food.

Why Would Coffee Raise Cholesterol

Even though it’s an unprocessed bean, coffee has many ingredients. You may have heard of it’s most famous ingredient, caffeine. But others like chlorgenic acid, and chemicals called diterpenes are also part of the joyful cast.

But wait, all is not joyful. One of those diterpenes, called cafestrol, is not playing nicely with others.

Caution; science mumbo jumbo below

Apparently this little fella activates a protein called farsenoid X receptor (FXR) in the intestine, which then affects a gene called fibroblast growth factor 15 (FGF15).

When FGF15 is activated, it can reduce the effects of three genes in the liver involved in cholesterol regulation.

There’s a Catch

This is only a problem in coffee that wasn’t brewed with a paper filter. Brewing methods like the French Press or plunger pot, Turkish or Greek coffees, espresso, percolated coffee, and even using those reusable screens as a filter all contain significant levels of cafestrol.

That’s the part that affected me. Because I like strong, black coffee, I love a French Press.

American style brewing with a paper filter catches almost all these diterpenes.

Studies have shown that drinking 4 – 6 cups of unfiltered coffee per day can increase your cholesterol levels by as much as 10% in 4 weeks. While drinking that same amount of paper filtered coffee has no significant affect on serum cholesterol levels.

Then Again….

Unfortunately, all is not settled. This Norwegian study showed no difference in serum cholesterol levels between filtered and unfiltered drinkers.

And this study actually showed that the diterpenes in coffee can work against certain types of cancer, such as colorectal.

Now Let’s Throw In Some Common Sense

I’m not suggesting that we let common sense trump scientific evidence. I kind of think that would be the opposite of common sense.

What I’m gonna do here is try to articulate a reasonable perspective.

Let’s consider the fact that this information isn’t plastered all over every doctors office wall. Rarely, if ever do you hear of doctors recommending their high cholesterol patients stop drinking unfiltered coffee. For that matter, my doc didn’t even mention coffee consumption at all with regard to my numbers.

It’s as if doc’s haven’t even heard of the connection.

On a side note here, I do think most docs are pandering for big pharma and they don’y really know diddly about nutrition beyond the national food chart.

Keeping in mind that;

  • doctors don’t preach about it
  • there isn’t much by way of media exposure
  • few people with high cho even know about it
  • millions of coffee lovers the world over drink the unfiltered stuff multiple times a day yet seem to keep on livin’.

With all that in mind, I lean towards this increase in cholesterol being fairly harmless to the average joe.

If cholesterol wasn’t a problem for me (generally speaking) then I wouldn’t give it a second thought. I would enjoy a nice strong French Press out on my front porch every morning while the sun came up.

Honestly speaking, after my personal experiment is over and I’ve got a clear picture of what’s going on with my health, I’ll probably start back up with the FP.

So Can Coffee Increase Your Cholesterol

Certainly, there’s plenty of scientific evidence pointing to that fact. But only with unfiltered coffee.

What you must do is use your own good judgement in consumption. If you have trouble with your cholesterol numbers and are trying to reduce, then eliminate the unfiltered stuff.

If cholesterol is no problem for you, then don’t sweat it. Chances are you’ve been drinking coffee for a while now and if it hasn’t affected you thus far, then it likely never will.

With all the benefits coffee has to offer, this high cholesterol thing is small potatoes.

So go brew yourself a pot of freshly ground Arabica beans and enjoy.


  1. Michael says

    So that could be part of my higher number too? I use paper though? Our pot has one of those filters that you don’t need to use a filter on…but we use a paper filter anyway. Hmm.

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