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High Cholesterol & Coffee

By Andrea Johnson

From helping you wake up in the morning to enhancing mental alertness, positive benefits can come from coffee consumption. However, coffee can increase your cholesterol levels if you drink unfiltered coffee, such as French-pressed coffee, Turkish coffee and espresso. This is a concern since high cholesterol levels are a risk factor for heart disease.

Active Ingredients in Coffee

Coffee beans contain a variety of chemicals and nutrients based on many factors, including the origin of where the coffee beans are grown and the roasting process. Roasting changes the original bean, resulting in certain ingredients responsible for the bean's qualities and characteristics. Coffee beans usually contain caffeine, which provides a stimulant effect. A group of chemicals known as pyridines formed from proteins evoke coffee's aroma, color and flavor. B-vitamins such as niacin and thiamin are present as a result of the roasting process. Lipids similar to vegetable oil are present in coffee beans and survive the roasting process. Acids such as phosphoric acid and acetic acid exist in small amounts and accounts for variations in flavor and quality, according to CoffeeChemistry.com.

Cafestol

The proposed mechanism for which coffee affects cholesterol has to do with a chemical called cafestol. Cafestol is a diterpene, which is a chemical compound found in the essential oils of plants. A study in the April 2010 "Drug Metabolism and Disposition" journal explains that cafestol is the strongest cholesterol-increasing chemical present in the diet of humans. It is present in unfiltered coffee since the filtering process typically filters the oil from coffee.

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Research Explains the Cholesterol-Elevating Effect

Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine explain cholesterol can be elevated by 6 to 8 percent after consuming 5 cups of French-pressed coffee, as noted in a report from ScienceDaily.com. This occurs due to the effects of cafestol. Cafestol inhibits three liver genes that typically regulate cholesterol in the body, according to a study in the April 2007 "Molecular Endocrinology." The researchers studied this effect in mice and found that cafestol in the small intestine signals the liver to reduce bile acid production, which uses cholesterol for synthesis. Since the cholesterol is not used for bile acids, it returns to the blood for circulation, and this is where you see the increase of cholesterol.

Coffee Recommendations

Coffee intake should be viewed the same as any other food you consume. It contributes a small piece to the larger picture of total food and beverages consumed for a day. Moderation is the key with coffee as with any other food or drink you consume. If cholesterol is a problem for you or runs in your family, then having your blood cholesterol levels checked can serve as your guide as to whether your diet, including coffee intake, needs to be altered. Consuming filtered coffee decreases the amount of cafestol obtained from drinking coffee, according to a report from Harvard School of Public Health. Moderate coffee consumption generally causes no side effects -- according to MedlinePlus.com -- and is noted as being three 8-ounce cups per day which contains 250 to 300 milligrams of caffeine. Any more than that may have negative consequences on your health.

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