Cholesterol & Coffee

Executive summary

* This week's note looks at the association between coffee consumption and total cholesterol.

* Coffee contains two substances that are reported to increase cholesterol levels.

* A Norwegian population study was used to examine the relationship for men and women separately consuming different amounts of different types of coffee and the differences in total cholesterol associated with this.

* The study found that drinking 3-5 espressos daily was associated with small increases in total cholesterol but that drinking 6 espressos or more daily made no difference. This was not explained in the paper.

* The most consistent relationships between coffee intake and total cholesterol were found with consumption of boiled/plunger coffee.

* Filtered coffee found associations for women but not for men. This was also not explained.

* There were many other takeaways from the paper, which were not highlighted by the authors.

* The association between coffee consumption and total cholesterol was first established in 1983. That has allowed plenty of time to do clinical trials and yet population studies are still being relied upon instead. There have been clinical trials on this topic – I summarise some of the key findings.

* The study was interesting, but it had limitations and it left a number of issues unexplained. It could have examined outcomes (events and deaths) but instead focused on a marker (cholesterol). If consumption of certain amounts and certain types of coffee raises cholesterol, but has no impact on events and deaths, who cares?


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