Coffee and cholesterol

“There are oily substances in coffee beans called diterpenes, specifically cafestol and kahweol, that can raise LDL cholesterol levels,” Michelle Routhenstein, a cardiology dietitian at, told Healthline.


“When the coffee beans are unfiltered, there can be up to 30 times more of these diterpenes than in a filtered brew, making unfiltered brews like espresso increase LDL levels and risk of cardiovascular disease,” she explained. “It is also important to note that caffeinated coffee is a stimulant and can increase blood pressure levels, and trigger heart palpitations such as atrial fibrillation in some individuals.”


“Some individuals may also get gastric irritation, jitters, and insomnia, so the amount recommended needs to take into account medical history, medications, and individual symptoms for optimal health,” Routhenstein said.

The study’s authors pointed out there was no standardized cup size used in their study.

“Norwegians are used to large cups of filtered coffee, and this habit could lead to large cups of expresso as well,” the wrote.

They also acknowledged different types of espresso – from coffee machines, capsules, or mocha pots – are likely to contain different levels of the key naturally occurring chemicals.

They also said there are no obvious explanations for the gender discrepancies in cholesterol response to coffee drinking.

Dr. Rigved V. Tadwalkar, a cardiologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in California, said there might be other reasons for the study’s results.

“This study was a population-based cross-sectional study, which means that there is a lot of variability in the data collected,” he told Healthline. “There are a number of possible reasons as to why the association between espresso consumption and total cholesterol was stronger for men.”

“Men may be drinking larger quantities,” Tadwalkar added. “Serving/cup sizes could also be larger for men. Further, different types of brewing methods predominating with one sex versus the other may also be responsible.”

The study authors noted the chemical make-up of different types of coffee may also matter.


“Interestingly, coffee contains more than a thousand diverse phytochemicals,” they wrote. “The intake of each compound also depends on the variety of coffee species, roasting degree, type of brewing method, and serving size.”


The researchers also pointed out that “experimental studies show that cafestol and kahweol, as well as increasing total cholesterol, have anti-inflammatory effects, protect the liver, and lessen the risks of cancer and diabetes.”

Tadwalkar said it’s important to keep in mind the health benefits coffee can provide.

“While it can be scary to realize that coffee can raise cholesterol, there is an established literature base showing that moderate coffee consumption is associated with lower cardiovascular disease risk,” Tadwalkar said. “The data on this are strong and have now been incorporated into guidelines on cardiovascular disease prevention. It is felt that the numerous biologically active compounds contained within coffee beans are responsible for these beneficial effects by improving metabolism and insulin sensitivity, as well as by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress.”