Written on October 3, 2023 by Amy Harris, MPH, RN. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
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Many of us enjoy a cup of coffee every day — it is one of the most commonly consumed beverages in the world. Hot, iced, latte, espresso, oat milk, soy milk, flavored — how we drink our coffee is almost as unique as we are. But does coffee raise cholesterol levels? Don’t throw away your coffee mug just yet. The takeaway from more than a decade of research is that, in moderation, coffee itself does not raise cholesterol. What matters more is what you put in your coffee and how much coffee you drink.[1,2]
No, plain old brewed coffee with nothing added does not have cholesterol. Cholesterol is a waxy substance that occurs naturally in your body. Your liver can make cholesterol, or you can get it through the food you eat.
You may have heard about different types of cholesterol, good cholesterol, and bad cholesterol. LDL cholesterol is sometimes called bad cholesterol because having higher LDL cholesterol levels is linked with a greater risk of heart disease and stroke.
Some foods contain more cholesterol than others. Coffee is not one of those foods, but milk, butter, cheese, beef, lamb, pork, poultry, palm oil, and coconut oil are high in saturated fat and may contribute to total high cholesterol levels. So, instead of blaming coffee for your high cholesterol, consider how much cream, coconut milk, or sugary flavored syrups you drink with your coffee.
Despite decades of research, no clear answer exists about whether consuming cholesterol-rich foods raises cholesterol. Because your liver also makes cholesterol, what you eat is not the only factor influencing your cholesterol levels. Instead, a combination of factors determines how your body reacts to what you eat and whether your cholesterol levels go up or down. These factors include[3,7]:
If you are trying to lower your cholesterol by changing your diet, other foods increase your LDL cholesterol much more than coffee. So don’t worry about quitting your morning coffee habit just yet.
Findings from several studies are inconclusive, so we don’t know whether drinking coffee can raise your cholesterol. Research shows that how you brew your coffee and how much coffee you drink may impact cholesterol the most. People consuming more than a moderate amount of coffee (4 cups a day), especially if they are older, may experience a bump in cholesterol levels, especially their LDL levels.
Some types of coffee beans may contain some natural oils that may impact cholesterol levels. The types of coffee to watch for are :
These types of coffee have more of two oils: cafestol and kahweol. Both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee have these oils. Research indicates that these two oils impact how the liver processes cholesterol. They cause an increase in LDL levels.[2,9]
Remember that LDL levels, when high in your body, can form sticky patches on blood vessel walls called plaques. These plaques can increase your risk for heart attack and stroke. Filtering your coffee lowers the levels of these oils, keeping coffee’s impact on LDL levels to a minimum.
Besides drinking less than 4 cups of coffee a day and choosing filtered coffee as your brew of choice, there are a few other ways to make it less likely that your coffee could raise your cholesterol:
It can be tough to change habits, especially regarding favorite foods and beverages. EverlyWell’s Weight+ Management Program is one option to consider on your healthy living journey. Whether or not you decide to use medication to help you lose weight, EverlyWell’s virtual healthcare providers can help you find other healthier swaps for your coffee and the rest of your diet to help you feel better and live well.
The easy answer is probably not. Not unless you know you already have high cholesterol (called hyperlipidemia). You can quickly and conveniently test your cholesterol at home with EverlyWell. EverlyWell makes lab testing easy; you’ll have digital results in days.
Hyperlipidemia is very common. More than 93 million American adults (age 20 and older) have a total cholesterol count above the recommended limit of 200 mg/dL. So, it is a good idea to regularly check your cholesterol levels as part of your health and wellness plan. The CDC recommends adults ages 20-69 have their cholesterol checked every 4-6 years.
If you have high cholesterol, quick results with EverlyWell’s at-home cholesterol and lipids test can help motivate you to make healthy lifestyle changes like moving more, eating more soluble fiber, or trying to reduce stress. While you don’t need to give up coffee to lower your cholesterol, tracking how much coffee you drink and what you add to your coffee may boost your efforts to lower your cholesterol.