If you prefer to drink your coffee like this, it could be devastating for your health

This article was updated on September 28, 2021.

Most experts agree that four cups of coffee (400 milligrams of caffeine) is a safe amount for otherwise healthy adults to consume a day. Without getting into the weeds about which demographics are affected the most and least by this guidance, it’s fair to say that quantity often says the most about any substance’s health impact. 

What coffee can do to your heart health

In research published in the journal Clinical Nutrition, a team from the Australian Center for Precision Health determined that drinking more than six cups of coffee a day dramatically increases the number of lipids in the drinker’s blood. This can in turn increase one’s chances of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD). In fact, lipid levels are some of the most predictive elements of CVD incidence.

Excessive caffeine intake appeared to more directly affect the plasma lipid profile of the participants; which refers to the amount of cholesterol and fat in their blood.

“There is evidence that long-term heavy coffee consumption may adversely affect individuals’ cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk. Our phenotypic and genetic analyses suggest that long-term heavy coffee consumption may lead to an unfavorable lipid profiles, which could potentially increase individuals’ risk for CVD. These findings may have clinical relevance for people with elevated LDL cholesterol,” the authors wrote.

To fund their research, the authors recruited 362,571 participants previously logged in the UK Biobank. These ranged in age between 37 and 73 years old. Heavy coffee intake was consistently associated with high lipids levels in the blood. Unfiltered coffee, lattes, and cappuccinos seemed to yield the most profound adverse effects in this respect. 

“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 authors explained in a media release. “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 authors suspect a cholesterol-raising compound called cafestol found in coffee beans is responsible for the results indexed above. Independently published literature has suggested that cafestol extraction varies depending on the coffee brewing mechanisms. 

“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,” study author, 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.

With coffee being close to the heart for many people, it’s always going to be a controversial subject. 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.”