ORDERING a cup of coffee comes with many decisions.
Latte, cappuccino, double shot, non-dairy milk. . . the list goes on.
But now scientists recognize you might want to choose your brew according to a possible health risk.
A study of 21,803 Norwegians showed certain types of coffee could be worse for your heart – and the risk is different for men and women.
The study found that drinking espresso-based coffee—for example Americanos and flat whites—led to an increase in cholesterol in men that was almost double the increase seen in women.
Men would be better off choosing a filter coffee.
Coffee contains oily compounds known as diterpenes — mainly cafestol and kahweol, which are known to raise cholesterol.
High cholesterol, mainly caused by eating fatty foods, obesity, smoking, drinking and a lack of exercise, can block blood vessels and trigger a stroke or heart disease.
Norwegian researchers asked people aged 40 and above about their coffee habits and took height, weight and blood pressure measurements, and analyzed blood samples.
They also took into account lifestyle factors, such as alcohol consumption, education, physical activity, diabetes and heart disease.
The results have been published in Open Heart, the new cardiovascular journal from the BMJ.
Professor Maja-Lisa Løchen, a cardiologist and study co-author, said: “We know from a 1988 study in Tromso there was a significant link between unfiltered, or boiled, coffee in Norway and cholesterol.
“In the past ten to 15 years, we have become more European in our coffee habits and we’re drinking more espresso coffee.
“This is the first time we asked about espresso coffee in our study as we were interested in the impact on cholesterol levels.
“We found, in both women and men that if you drink three to five cups of espresso or more a day, it raises your cholesterol significantly, but more so in men.”
A smaller study in the UK found similar results — but one in Italy contradicted the findings.
Professor Løchen added: “We were surprised by the sex difference. This is a new finding.
“We don’t know why. It could be a combination of cultural and physiological differences.
“We didn’t ask about cup size, so it could be men and women are drinking coffee from different sized cups.
“It could also be the way coffee is processed in the body.
“It has been shown that the oils in the coffee are processed differently in men and women, so the cholesterol level in the blood is stronger in men.”
Earlier this year, Australian experts found people who drank two to three cups of coffee a day had a 10 to 15 per cent lower risk of developing heart disease.
Professor Tom Sanders, a nutrition expert at King’s College London, said: “It does not matter what type of coffee you drink if you only have one or two cups a day, but it is important if you drink more.”
Here we look at which coffee you should choose to reduce your health risk, according to the study.
Worse for men than women
MAKING an espresso involves forcing hot water at high pressure through densely packed coffee grounds.
Coffees such as latte, macchiato and Americano contain espresso.
In the study, those who drank between three and five espresso coffees each day were significantly more likely to have higher levels of cholesterol than those who did not.
Women who drank this amount showed levels of cholesterol that were 0.09mmol/L (millimoles per liter of blood) higher.
But men who consumed the same amount showed nearly double the increase – 0.16mmol/L.
A healthy cholesterol level is below 5mmol/L.
Best for men
THE process of making this sort of coffee, whereby hot water is passed through coffee grounds in a filter, removes most of the cholesterol-causing compounds.
The study showed men who drank six or more cups of filtered coffee a day did not show any increase in average cholesterol levels.
However, women showed a typical increase of 0.11mmol/L. Professor Lochen said: “If you don’t filter coffee, there’s a lot of fat that can harm you.
“There was a public health message in Norway as unfiltered coffee was the common way.
“After it, more people drank filtered coffee.”
A separate study found a cup of unfiltered coffee contains 30 times more diterpenes than filtered coffee.
Best for both
FANS of this type of coffee showed the lowest increase in cholesterol and there was almost no difference between men and women.
Professor Lochen said: “It must be something to do with the way coffee beans are processed into instant coffee that removes the oils.
“The study showed only a slightly stronger cholesterol link in men, but it was not much.
“As a cardiologist, when people ask me what type of coffee they should drink if they have high cholesterol, or if they have had a heart attack and need to keep their cholesterol down, I suggest instant or filter, as it is the safest if you drink many cups a day.
“If you only drink a small cup of espresso once a day, then that’s okay.”
Worst for both
CAFETIERE coffee is made by plunging the coffee grounds to the bottom of a pot before the liquid is poured.
Boiled coffee, which has a similar risk, is a pot of boiling water with coffee.
People who drank six cups of these types of coffee a day showed cholesterol levels that were 0.23-0.3mmol/L higher than those who didn’t drink coffee.
However, there was no significant difference between men and women.
Professor Lochen said: “In the study, we did not split cafetiere and boiled coffee.
“They had the strongest association with cholesterol for both men and women.
“It was surprising there was a difference between men and women with other types of coffee, but not this.”