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High cholesterol: Coffee may increase levels, warns study – what types should you avoid?

By Jess Knibbs

Most of the studies on coffee and its impact on health show that moderate amounts (four cups or less daily) can be good for your general health, however, more than four cups have been connected to a greater risk of death from heart disease.

Though brewed coffee does not contain actual cholesterol, it does contain chemical compounds that can raise cholesterol levels.

The diterpenes in coffee suppress the body's production of substances involved in cholesterol breakdown, which causes cholesterol to increase.

Diterpenes are the main class of coffee oil after triglycerides and belong to the kauren family.

Coffee diterpenes may cause an increase in total cholesterol and LDL (low-density lipoprotein - or 'bad' cholesterol) levels, experts warn.

Studies suggest that instant, or soluble, coffee contains virtually no diterpenes and are therefore recommended for those concerned about their levels.

Coffee contains diterpenes, which suppress the body's production of substances involved in cholesterol breakdown (Getty Images/Blend Images)

Acrylamide is another chemical present in coffee that has been shown to affect total cholesterol, triglyceride, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels, and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol.

In a study published in the National Library of Medicine, acrylamide levels in coffee were further investigated.

A total of 42 samples of coffee were analysed, which included 28 that were ground roasted coffee, 11 instant coffees and three coffee substitutes (grain coffee).

“The highest mean acrylamide concentrations were found in coffee substitutes (818 pg/kg) followed by instant coffee (358 microg/kg) and then roasted coffee (179 microg/kg),” noted the study.

It added: “One single cup of coffee (160ml) delivered on average from 0.45 microg acrylamide in roasted coffee to 3.21 microg in coffee substitutes.

The study found that the coffee-roasting process has the most significant impact on acrylamide levels in natural coffee (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

“A significant negative correlation was observed between acrylamide levels and the intensity of colour in roasted coffee; this was not the case however for instant coffee.”

The study concluded that the roasting process had the most significant effect on acrylamide levels in natural coffee, however there were no relationships found with coffee species.

“Due to the high acrylamide levels demonstrated in coffee substitutes, recommended amounts should be defined, and manufacturers should be obliged to reduce such levels in these products,” it added.

Healthier drinks to consume in the morning that can positively impact on cholesterol levels include:

  • Green tea
  • Soy milk
  • Pomegranate juice
  • Tomato juice
  • Oat drinks
  • Berry smoothies

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Dive Deeper:
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One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
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Get all your news in one place