French press coffee raises LDL cholesterol. Damnit.

Posted on 22 June 2008


See an informal summary here (from

…and it’s not just french press, either: any kind of “un-paperfiltered” coffee, even espresso, contains a significantly hazardous amount of diterpenes like cafestol; certain diterpenes have been demonstrated to promote vascular disease by interfering with LDL clearance via agonism of FXR and resulting negative changes to endosomal LDL uptake and ultimately biliary excretion. Not so good for you. (Lots of nice references in that FXR link, by the way.)

Consider this excerpt from Ricketts et al:

Cafestol, a diterpene present in unfiltered coffee brews such as Scandinavian boiled, Turkish and Cafetière coffee, is the most potent cholesterol-elevating compound known in the human diet.

Also considering that some (but far from all) researchers promote the idea that target serum LDL should be in the neighborhood of 35 mg/dL, which is considerably less than the AHA’s guideline of “< 100”; it seems that even a moderate increase in LDL due to chronic coffee consumption thus becomes a serious step in the wrong direction.

Here’s an excerpt from the document linked above. This table states cafestol (left column) and kahweol (right column) content of “one serving” of coffee versus brewing method:

Scandinavian boiled 3.0mg 3.9mg
French press 3.5mg 4.4mg
Italian espresso 1.5mg 1.8mg
Drip – Gold Filtered 2.5mg Not given
Drip – Paper filtered 0.1mg Not given

…so it is apparent that paper filters aggressively bind diterpenes. Considering that I’m already taking >1.0 mg bid of a plant sterol/stanol supplement in an attempt to comply with the reduced LDL recommendations for everyone (and in an attempt to avoid prophylaxis with statins), as well as actively avoiding trans-fats and saturated fats, it seems that I may have to go back to drinking only paper-filtered coffee.  Damn. The older I get, the more painful it becomes to realize everything is a give-and-take!

Reality check: it’s not like I can’t just drink the paper-filtered stuff for the rest of my life, but I do really enjoy the ritual behind making french-press coffee and espresso, as well as the quality of the coffee that these methods produce. It’s fun! Maybe I’ll do a little experiment by getting my cholesterol checked now and several times during and after 3-6 months of only paper-filtered coffee. I’ll look into the costs associated with this; maybe there’s a study going on that I can participate in. More on this idea later.

Update: Fasting LDL in Aug 2008 is at 54 mg/dL. I don’t know how stable this number is, but not too shabby for a single datapoint.  This is, by the way, after two months of stanol/sterol supplement and a drastic reduction in non-paperfiltered coffee. An increase in exercise complicates the analysis…as well as the increased volume of eggs and shrimp in my diet since getting back from the VA-food during my internship in Seattle!

Perhaps this means that hospitals should reconsider the “espresso-machine only” style of coffee bars in their lobbies? It might just be nearly as bad as having a cigarette-vending machine in the lobby!

A “few” papers related to the topic (and sorry about the inconsistent formatting–WordPress makes this hard to do easily!):

Am J Clin Nutr. 2001 Jan ;73 (1):45-52 11124749
Division of Human Nutrition and Epidemiology, Wageningen University, Wageningen, Netherlands.
J Intern Med. 2001 Feb ;249 (2):163-6 11240845
Department of General Internal Medicine, University Medical Centre Nijmegen, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.
Lipids Health Dis. 2004 Apr 7;3 :5 15070410
Biochemical Profiling, Paradigm Genetics, P.O. Box 14528, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina 27709-4528, USA.
Am Coll Cardiol. 2008 Apr 22;51 (16):1553-61 18420097 (P,S,E,B,D)
Klinik für Innere Medizin III, Kardiologie, Angiologie und Internistische Intensivmedizin, Universitätsklinikum des Saarlandes, Homburg/Saar, Germany.
Clin Nutr. 2007 Aug 23; : 17719702
Eur J Clin Nutr. 2007 May 9; : 17487211
1Department of Human Biology, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands.
Mol Endocrinol. 2007 Apr 24; : 17456796
Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX, USA (M.L.R., D.D.M.), Wageningen University, Division of Human Nutrition, The Netherlands (M.V.B., G.J.E.J.H., M.M.), Wageningen Centre for Food Sciences, The Netherlands (M.V.B.), Center for Human and Clinical Genetics, LUMC, Leiden, The Netherlands (A.J.K., C.J.A.M., R.R.F.), Dept. of Medical Statistics, LUMC, Leiden, The Netherlands (S.K.), TNO Pharma, Leiden, The Netherlands (S.M.P., H.M.G.P.), Incyte Corp. Palo Alto CA, (Present address: CV Therapeutics, Palo Alto, CA) (J.G.P.), Vriye Univeriteit Amsterdam, Institute for Health Sciences, The Netherlands (M.B.K.); Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University Medical Center, Groningen, The Netherlands (M.H.H.).
Eur J Clin Nutr. 2008 Feb;62(2):263-73. Epub 2007 May 9.
Effects of plant sterol and stanol ester consumption on lipid metabolism, antioxidant status and markers of oxidative stress, endothelial function and low-grade inflammation in patients on current statin treatment.
De Jong A, Plat J, Bast A, Godschalk RW, Basu S, Mensink RP.Department of Human Biology, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands.
Eur J Clin Nutr. 2008 Feb;62(2):218-24. Epub 2007 Mar 14.
Carotid artery compliance in users of plant stanol ester margarine.
Raitakari OT, Salo P, Ahotupa M.
Department of Clinical Physiology, University of Turku, Turku, Finland.

Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2000 Jun;20(6):1551-6.
Cafestol increases serum cholesterol levels in apolipoprotein E*3-Leiden transgenic mice by suppression of bile acid synthesis.
Post SM, de Roos B, Vermeulen M, Afman L, Jong MC, Dahlmans VE, Havekes LM, Stellaard F, Katan MB, Princen HM.TNO Prevention and Health, Gaubius Laboratory, Leiden, The Netherlands.

J Am Coll Nutr. 2008 Feb;27(1):117-26.

The baseline serum lipoprotein profile is related to plant stanol induced changes in serum lipoprotein cholesterol and triacylglycerol concentrations. Naumann E, Plat J, Kester AD, Mensink RP.Department of Human Biology, Maastricht University, PO Box 616, 6200 Maastricht, The Netherlands.

Posted in: Coffee, Health Care