An international team of researchers found that men who consume three to five cups of espresso coffee a day may have higher cholesterol levels than their female coffee consuming colleagues.
According to research published in the journal Open Heart, the gender of the drinker as well as the brewing method may play a role in coffee’s association with elevated cholesterol, a known risk factor for heart disease.
Drinking espresso was linked to the biggest gender disparity in cholesterol levels, whereas those who drank plunger (cafetière) coffee had the smallest.
Natural compounds in coffee, such as diterpenes, cafestol, and kahweol, boost blood cholesterol levels. The brewing process matters, but it’s unclear how much espresso coffee matters and in what quantities.
The researchers wanted to see how espresso coffee compared to other brewing methods in adults aged 40 and up (average age 56).
They used data from 21,083 people (11074 women and 10009 males) who took part in the Troms Study’s seventh survey in 2015-16. The Troms Study is a long-term demographic study that began in 1974 and involves residents of the Norwegian city of Troms.
Participants were asked how many cups of coffee they consumed on a daily basis—none, 1–2 cups, 3–5 cups, and 6 or more cups—as well as what sort of brew they preferred—filtered, plunger (cafetière), espresso from coffee machines, pods, mocha pots, and instant.
Height and weight were measured, and blood samples were obtained. Diet and lifestyle, including smoking, alcohol use, and physical activity; educational achievement; and whether type 2 diabetes had been diagnosed were all were considered.
Men consumed nearly 5 cups of coffee per day on average, while women drank slightly under 4 cups.
The findings revealed that the relationship between coffee and serum total cholesterol differed based on the brewing method, with significant gender differences for all brew methods except plunger coffee.
Drinking 3–5 cups of espresso per day was linked to higher total cholesterol levels in the blood, especially in men.
This pattern of intake was linked to 0.09 mmol/l higher blood cholesterol in women and 0.16 mmol/l higher serum cholesterol in men as compared to those who drank none.
A daily intake of 6 or more cups of plunger coffee was likewise linked to higher cholesterol levels in both men and women, with 0.30 mmol/l higher in women and 0.23 mmol/l higher in males.
When compared to those who did not consume filtered coffee, drinking 6 or more cups of filtered coffee per day was related to 0.11 mmol/l higher cholesterol in women but not in males.
While instant coffee was linked to an increase in cholesterol in both men and women, this did not correlate with the number of cups consumed as compared to those who did not use coffee powder/granules.
The researchers note that their study did not employ a uniform cup size; for example, Norwegians drink from larger espresso cups than Italians.
Different forms of espresso, whether from coffee machines, capsules, or mocha pots, are likely to include varying proportions of naturally occurring chemicals.
They add that there are currently no evident explanations for the gender differences in cholesterol response to coffee consumption.
“Interestingly, coffee contains more than a thousand diverse phytochemicals. The intake of each compound also depends on the variety of coffee species, roasting degree, type of brewing method and serving size,” explain the authors.
They note that experimental investigations demonstrate that cafestol and kahweol, in addition to raising total cholesterol, offer anti-inflammatory properties, protect the liver, and reduce cancer and diabetes risks.
“This demonstrates how coffee contains compounds that may lead to multiple mechanisms operating simultaneously,” point out the authors.
And they concluded: “Coffee is the most frequently consumed central stimulant worldwide. Because of the high consumption of coffee, even small health effects can have considerable health consequences.”
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