Which type of coffee is worse for your heart depends on your sex, a study suggests.
Researchers have found coffee raises cholesterol — but to what extent is influenced by how it is brewed and whether you are a man or woman.
For men, drinking espressos causes a bigger spike than women.
Whereas the opposite is true for filter coffee, with women seeing higher levels than men who drink the amount.
The study, of more than 20,000 people in Norway, found that cafetiere coffee was the only type that did not cause ‘significant sex differences’ to cholesterol.
Naturally-occurring chemicals in coffee, called diterpenes, cafestol and kahweol, are known to raise levels of cholesterol — a fatty substance which can clog arteries and trigger heart attacks and strokes.
But experts have urged caution over the findings, stating those who only drink one or two cups a day should not be concerned.
Other studies have found drinking coffee can actually lower the risk of heart-related issues.
Men should opt for a filter coffee and women an espresso to avoid some of the cholesterol raising effects of coffee a new study suggests
WHAT IS HIGH CHOLESTEROL?
Cholesterol is a fatty substance that is vital for the normal functioning of the body.
But too much can cause it to build up in the arteries, restricting blood flow to the heart, brain and rest of the body.
This raises the risk of angina, heart attacks, stroke and blood clots.
Cholesterol is made in the liver and is carried in the blood by proteins.
The first – high-density lipoprotein (HDL) – carries cholesterol from cells to the liver where it is broken down or passed as waste. This is ‘good cholesterol’.
‘Bad cholesterol’ – low-density lipoprotein (LDL) – carries cholesterol to cells, with excessive amounts then building in the artery walls.
High cholesterol can be genetic but it is also linked to a diet rich in saturated fat, as well as smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure and a family history of stroke or heart disease.
Blood cholesterol is measured in units called millimoles per liter of blood, often shortened to mmol/L.
A healthy adult’s overall level should be 5mmol/L or less, while their LDL level should be no more than 3mmol/L. An ideal level of HDL is above 1mmol/L.
Cholesterol can be lowered by eating a healthy, low-fat diet; not smoking; and exercising regularly.
If these do not help, cholesterol-lowering medication like statins may be prescribed.
The study, published in the journal Open Heart, examined survey answers and blood samples of 21,083 people over the age of 40 who lived in Tromso, Norway.
It was carried out by a team of researchers led by the UiT Artic University of Norway.
They examined four brewing methods, espresso, cafetiere, filtered and instant coffee.
Participants in the study were surveyed on how many cups of coffee they drank each day and what type of brewing method was used to make it.
Blood samples were then taken for analysis, as well as participants’ height and weight.
Results showed people who drank three to five espressos a day were significantly more likely to have higher levels of cholesterol in the blood, compared with those who did not.
But the extent of the increase differed by sex, with men who drank this many espressos seeing their cholesterol levels rise by 0.16mmol/L whereas women only saw their levels rise by 0.09mmol/L.
As a guide, people who score below five millimoles per liter (mmol/L) of blood on a cholesterol test are considered to have a healthy level of fat in their blood.
Espressos are made by forcing hot water under high pressure through finely compacted coffee.
They can be drank by itself as well as mixed in with milk to form beverages like macchiatos, flat whites, and cappuccinos.
Drinking six or more cups of filtered coffee didn’t increase cholesterol levels in men, but did increase levels in women by 0.11mmol/L.
Filtered coffee is made by hot water slowly dripping down through coffee grounds before passing through the filter, which removes most of the cholesterol raising chemicals.
The experts said there was no obvious explanation for the differences in gender observed in the study.
Participants who had six or more cups of cafetiere coffee — also known as boiled/plunger coffee — also had raised cholesterol levels, 0.30mmol/L for women and 0.23mmol/L for men, compared with those who did not, but there was no significant difference between sexes, the researchers said.
There was not a strong relationship between drinking instant coffee and cholesterol levels, which the researchers say ‘makes sense’ given that this type contains only tiny amounts of cholesterol-raising ingredients.
Lead author of the study Åsne Lirhus Svatun said: ‘Increased knowledge on espresso coffee’s association with serum cholesterol will improve the recommendations regarding coffee consumption.’
Dr Dipender Gill, an expert in pharmacology from the University of London, urged caution regarding the findings, stating other factors beyond coffee preference could be influencing the results.
‘Specifically, men and individuals with a preference for a certain type of coffee may also happen to have other lifestyle factors that affect their cholesterol levels,’ he said.
Professor Tom Sanders, an expert in nutrition from King’s College London, also told people not to worry what kind of coffee they drank as long as it was in moderation.
‘It does not really 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’ he said.
One limitation of the study is that no standard cup size was used in the analysis.
Cholesterol is a fatty substance vital for the normal functioning of the body.
But too much can cause it to build up in the arteries, restricting blood flow to the heart, brain and rest of the body and raising the risk of angina, heart attacks, stroke and blood clots.
While a plethora of studies have previously linked coffee to numerous health benefits, including general longevity, and less chance of depression or diabetes.
In contrast to the latest research Australian experts published a study in March this year which found people who drank two to three cups of coffee per day had a 10 to 15 per cent lower risk of developing heart disease or dying within a decade.