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Coffee Oils and Cholesterol

By Nicole Adams

When you think of coffee, you probably think of caffeine. And when you think of making your coffee healthier, the cream may the first thing to go. But coffee has a darker side. Coffee oils have been shown to raise cholesterol levels, which in turn can increase your risk of heart disease. Consider your choice of brewing methods next time you make a cup of coffee.

About Cholesterol

Your body needs cholesterol. Cholesterol helps to build new cells, insulate nerves and produce hormones, according to the Cholesterol Doctor website. There are two types of cholesterol: low density lipoprotein, or LDL, and high density lipoprotein, or HDL. LDL cholesterol is considered to be “bad” cholesterol while HDL is considered to be “good.” The job of HDL is to carry LDL back to the liver to be excreted out of the body. If you have too much LDL cholesterol circulating in your blood, it sticks to your artery walls.

Coffee Ingredients

An unroasted coffee bean has acids, protein and caffeine but no taste. Coffee roasting involves heat to make a chemical reaction that turns the carbohydrates and fats into aromatic oils, according to the National Geographic website. The coffee bean has natural oils, cafestol and kahweol, that are released during this process. The roasting process is what gives coffee its flavor.

Effect of Coffee on Cholesterol

One of the oils found in coffee, cafestol, takes control of an important bile acid receptor located in the intestines that helps to regulate cholesterol in the body, according to the a 2007 study in the journal, "Molecular Endocrinology." In doing so, cafestol raises cholesterol. Speaking in an interview with, researcher Dr. David Moore notes that cafestol is the most potent dietary cholesterol-elevating agent currently known.

Expert Insight

A 1994 study published in the "Journal of Lipid Research" used boiled coffee to determine the effect of the ingestion of coffee oils and cholesterol. Results showed that cafestol raised serum cholesterol as well as triglycerides, and even after four weeks had not reached a plateau. Findings further showed that most of the increase of cholesterol was on LDL and at the same time, decreased HDL. Another study, published in the 2001 issue of the "American Journal of Epidemiology," found that consumption of unfiltered coffee raised LDL cholesterol levels, total levels and triglycerides.


The coffee oils suspected and proved to raise cholesterol are present in unfiltered coffee, the end product of boiled coffee or a French press. Filtered coffee, the kind typically seen with traditional coffee makers, contains very little of the coffee oils. Dr. Moore mentions that the paper filters used in coffee makers trap the oils that increase cholesterol.

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