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Espresso Is Linked to Higher Total Cholesterol Levels

espresso machine

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Key Takeaways

  • A new study found that drinking three to five cups of espresso every day is associated with higher total cholesterol levels, especially in men.
  • Coffee contains compounds that have been linked to elevated total cholesterol levels.
  • New data shows that the method used to prepare the coffee affects how much of these compounds are left in the cup.

How you prepare your coffee may affect your cholesterol level, according to a study published in Open Heart.

Espresso in particular is associated with higher total cholesterol levels, and the association was stronger in men than in women, the study showed.

Coffee consumption may raise cholesterol levels in part because the beverage contains the chemicals cafestol and kahweol, which have been linked to higher LDL “bad” cholesterol.

French press or plunger coffee has higher contents of these cholesterol-raising compounds than filtered coffee does. Espresso has an intermediate amount of these compounds, but data on espresso intake and cholesterol levels is limited.

The Study

To determine whether drinking espresso affects cholesterol levels, researchers in Norway evaluated data from over 20,000 people over the age of 40.

Compared to participants who did not drink espresso, those who have three to five cups of espresso every day were significantly associated with increased total cholesterol. But men saw a greater effect.

Drinking six or more cups of boiled or plunger coffee daily was linked to increased total cholesterol in both women and men. Six or more cups of filtered coffee daily were only associated with higher total cholesterol levels in women, but not in men.

How to Drink Coffee and Support Your Cholesterol

Michelle Routhenstein, MS, RD, a cardiology dietitian at Entirely Nourished who was not involved in the study, told Verywell that “the key takeaway of this study is to reduce espresso consumption to zero to two cups per day to assist with lowering cholesterol levels.”

According to Routhenstein, there can be up to 30 times more of the compounds that play a role in cholesterol elevation when the coffee beans are unfiltered compared to what you’d find in a filtered brew.

She added that “caffeinated coffee is a stimulant and can increase blood pressure levels, and may cause heart palpitations such as atrial fibrillation" for some people.

While the results of the study might be concerning, you don’t necessarily have to cut out coffee entirely to support healthy cholesterol levels. Routhenstein said that the amount recommended might vary based on individual medical history.

What Are Normal Cholesterol Levels?

For most healthy adults, total cholesterol should be less than 200 mg/dL, your LDL less than 100 mg/dL, and your HDL greater than 40 mg/dL. For children, total cholesterol should be less than 170 mg/dL, LDL less than 110 mg/dL, and HDL greater than 45 mg/dL.

Having high cholesterol levels can increase the risk of health conditions like heart disease and a heart attack.

  • While coffee consumption is part of an overall diet, Routhenstein said focusing on foods will also help protect your heart and lower your cholesterol levels. This can include limiting sodium and saturated fat intake as well as getting more soluble fiber. Exercising and prioritizing quality sleep are also key to maintaining heart health.

What This Means For You

A recent study found that drinking three to five cups of espresso daily is linked to higher levels of total cholesterol. You don’t necessarily have to give up coffee if you’re trying to manage your cholesterol, but you may want to think about how you prepare it and how much you're drinking every day.

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3 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. Svatun ÅL, Løchen ML, Thelle DS, Wilsgaard T. Association between espresso coffee and serum total cholesterol: the Tromsø Study 2015-2016. Open Heart. 2022;9(1):e001946. doi:10.1136/openhrt-2021-001946

  2. Ren Y, Wang C, Xu J, Wang S. Cafestol and kahweol: a review on their bioactivities and pharmacological properties. Int J Mol Sci. 2019;20(17):4238. doi:10.3390/ijms20174238

  3. Mortensen MB, Nordestgaard BG. Elevated LDL cholesterol and increased risk of myocardial infarction and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease in individuals aged 70-100 years: a contemporary primary prevention cohort. Lancet. 2020;396(10263):1644-1652. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(20)32233-9