Can Coffee Lower Your Cholesterol?

Coffee is a popular beverage that is heavily consumed in the United States. With a coffee shop on practically every corner, it is difficult not to join the coffee craze that has swept the nation.

There are many varieties of coffees, but they are prepared in two main ways: filtered and unfiltered. Filtered coffees are the most common mode of preparation in the United States and involve brewing the coffee through a filter. Unfiltered coffees, also known as “boiled” coffees, do not employ a filter and include espresso, Turkish coffees, and French press coffees.

Coffee contains many ingredients, most notably caffeine, chlorogenic acid, and chemicals called diterpenes. Many studies have examined the health benefits of coffee, paying particularly close attention to caffeine.

Some studies have even suggested that drinking coffee may prevent diseases such as type II diabetes mellitus, Parkinson’s disease, certain types of liver cancer, and possibly improve your heart health by lowering your cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

To date, coffee consumption has not been directly associated with cardiovascular disease, but some studies reveal that some forms of coffee may adversely affect your lipid profile.

Unfiltered Brewing May Raise Lipids

Although most studies have noted that filtered coffee has a neutral effect on lipid levels, unfiltered coffee appears to increase LDL, total cholesterol, and triglycerides in some studies. Two diterpenes found in high amounts in unfiltered coffee, cafestol and kahweol, have been found to actually raise cholesterol levels, according to a review study published in 2012.

small shot of espresso.

The studies examined different types of unfiltered coffee, as well as coffee oil. Most studies have indicated that individuals consuming roughly 60 milligrams of cafestol (equivalent to 10 cups of unfiltered, French press coffee or 2 grams of coffee oil) may raise total cholesterol levels by an average of about 20%.

This is largely due to an increase in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels and triglyceride levels. High-density lipoproteins (HDL) do not appear to be affected. It is thought that filtered coffee does not have this effect because the diterpenes are caught in the filter and not included in the coffee consumed.

Although the mechanism by which cafestol and kahweol raised cholesterol were largely unknown, one study indicates that this compound may activate a protein called farsenoid X receptor (FXR) in the intestine, which affects a gene called fibroblast growth factor 15 (FGF15).

When this gene is activated, it can reduce the effects of three genes in the liver involved in cholesterol regulation. In other words, cholesterol levels increase when cafestol and kahweol are present due to their ability to activate this gene.

It's important to note that this study was done with mice and these compounds may act differently in humans. More studies are needed to examine the effect of coffee on lipid levels since the results from some of these studies have been mixed.

If you are trying to watch your cholesterol and triglyceride levels, you may want to lower your consumption of unfiltered coffee beverages (espresso, French press, or Turkish coffee) if you drink large amounts of them frequently.

Additionally, you should watch out for some of the things you are adding to your coffee. Heavy cream, sugar, chocolate syrup, and caramel can add calories to your coffee and could raise your cholesterol and triglyceride levels if you consume these items on a regular basis.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Ranheim T, Halvorsen B. Coffee consumption and human health--beneficial or detrimental?--Mechanisms for effects of coffee consumption on different risk factors for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes mellitus. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2005;49(3):274-84. doi:10.1002/mnfr.200400109

  2. Cai L, Ma D, Zhang Y, Liu Z, Wang P. The effect of coffee consumption on serum lipids: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2012;66(8):872-7. doi:10.1038/ejcn.2012.68

  3. Urgert R, Katan MB. The cholesterol-raising factor from coffee beans. Annu Rev Nutr. 1997;17:305-24. doi:10.1146/annurev.nutr.17.1.305

  4. Ricketts ML, Boekschoten MV, Kreeft AJ, et al. The cholesterol-raising factor from coffee beans, cafestol, as an agonist ligand for the farnesoid and pregnane X receptors. Mol Endocrinol. 2007;21(7):1603-16. doi:10.1210/me.2007-0133

  5. DiNicolantonio JJ, Lucan SC, O'Keefe JH. The Evidence for Saturated Fat and for Sugar Related to Coronary Heart DiseaseProg Cardiovasc Dis. 2016;58(5):464–472. doi:10.1016/j.pcad.2015.11.006

Related Articles