I've heard that coffee can raise your cholesterol. If that's true, is it a bad thing? Is regular or acute exposure to coffee dangerous in this way?

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    Do have a citation for this? I included one in my answer below, but it will always help to share research to get on-point answers. There's a discussion on meta.coffee about whether we discuss health, to the extent that this is health. – hoc_age Feb 10 '15 at 14:10

Coffee beans contain a chemical called cafestol, which tends to increase blood cholesterol levels, especially LDL ("bad") cholesterol.

Brewing with a paper filter seems to reduce the levels of these cholesterol-raising chemicals in brewed coffee by filtering out these chemicals (e.g., cafestol, kahweol). Levels of cafestol in coffee are higher in non-paper-filtered brewing methods, such as French press and others.

Here's one article that discusses this, and another pointed out by @apaul34208 in comments.

EDIT: Links to actual studies. Here are two studies that discuss this further: one from van Dusseldorp, et al., 1991 that talks about "a factor" (i.e., an as-yet-unidentified compound) that has a cholesterol-raising impact. A later paper (Urgent, Katan 1997) identifies these factors as "diterpene lipids cafestol and kahweol". Specifically, the abstract from the latter article states that "[paper] filtered coffee does not affect cholesterol."

  • I just read that article and a couple of others and was typing something out, but you beat me to the post. +1 – apaul Feb 10 '15 at 14:11
  • @apaul34208 Have we already reached the FGITW problem on Coffee already?? ;-) Feel free to add more links if you've got a better reference. The cafestol Wikipedia page refers to a study that seems to discuss levels in paper-filtered coffee and gender differences, but it's a dead-link and I didn't immediately find a proper replacement reference. Ultimately, I believe the compound has the effect, but I have no idea about the scientific basis for any of the rest. Coffee+Science->Fun – hoc_age Feb 10 '15 at 14:45
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    9 hours would be a pretty slow gun fight :) The Harvard article was the best one I found, NBC had a decent one as well. – apaul Feb 10 '15 at 14:53
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    @apaul34208 Good article and references; hadn't seen that one. As an aside, you may wish to trim the tracking part of a URL (the trailing #.VNoas...) when you copy/paste links, when you post. Probably harmless, but if the link still works without it, all the better. – hoc_age Feb 10 '15 at 19:29
  • Can you address whether the increase in LDL cholesterol levels is necessarily detrimental or even significant? – speedfranklin Feb 10 '15 at 20:41

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