Too much coffee bad for the heart, lattes and cappuccinos worse than other brews

ADELAIDE, Australia — How much coffee is too much in one day? For some coffee lovers, the sky’s the limit, but a new study finds they’re better off quitting at six cups. Researchers from the University of South Australia say long-term, heavy coffee consumption can raise the amount of fat in the drinker’s blood, leading to higher chances of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD).

The team from the Australian Center for Precision Health defined heavy consumption as anything over six cups of coffee each day. Their findings also reveal that the more coffee someone drinks, the more these lipids build up in the blood.

While some studies have determined that drinking coffee can be good for the heart, Professor Elina Hyppönen says the jury is still out on how much people should be drinking.

“There’s certainly a lot of scientific debate about the pros and cons of coffee, but while it may seem like we’re going over old ground, it’s essential to fully understand how one of the world’s most widely consumed drinks can impact our health,” the UniSA researcher says in a university release.

Which coffee brews are worst when it comes to heart health?

The study examined over 362,000 participants in the U.K. Biobank, ranging in age from 37 to 73 years-old. Researchers focused on the link between coffee intake and plasma lipid profiles — the amount of cholesterol and fat in the blood.

The team notes high levels of blood lipids are a major factor in developing heart disease. Study authors also point out that coffee beans contain a potent cholesterol-raising compound called cafestol. Interestingly, some varieties of coffee contain more of the compound than others, making them more of a problem for drinkers with heart trouble.

“Cafestol is mainly present in unfiltered brews, such as French press, Turkish and Greek coffees, but it’s also in espressos, which is the base for most barista-made coffees, including lattes and cappuccinos,” Prof. Elina Hyppönen explains. “There is no, or very little cafestol in filtered and instant coffee, so with respect to effects on lipids, those are good coffee choices.”

“The implications of this study are potentially broad-reaching. In my opinion it is especially important for people with high cholesterol or who are worried about getting heart disease to carefully choose what type of coffee they drink. Importantly, the coffee-lipid association is dose-dependent – the more you drink unfiltered coffee the more it raises your blood lipids, putting you at greater risk of heart disease,” the professor continues.

Everything in moderation

Study authors say the world drinks about three billion cups of coffee each day. At the same time, cardiovascular disease is the number one killer around the globe, taking just under 18 million lives annually.

For all the coffee lovers out there, Prof. Hyppönen says it’s important to keep from overindulging in the habit. For those who simply can’t keep from drinking to excess, filtered coffee seems to be the safest choice for heart health.

“With coffee being close to the heart for many people, it’s always going to be a controversial subject,” Prof. Hyppönen concludes. “Our research shows, excess coffee is clearly not good for cardiovascular health, which certainly has implications for those already at risk. Of course, unless we know otherwise, the well-worn adage usually fares well – everything in moderation – when it comes to health, this is generally good advice.”

The study appears in the journal Clinical Nutrition.

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