Quitting coffee may protect from heart disease

August 28, 2001 in Healthy Eating, Heart Health

Quitting coffee may protect from heart disease

A new study from Norway has found that coffee drinkers who quit drinking caffeinated filtered coffee lowered their blood cholesterol and homocysteine levels. High levels of both substances increase the risk for heart disease.

Previous research found a similar effect with boiled coffee, which is not filtered and therefore contains more of the naturally occurring organic compounds found in coffee grounds. Some of these compounds, called terpenoids, are known to increase cholesterol levels. Researchers from Oslo, Norway, explained that both unfiltered coffee and normal filtered coffee affects cholesterol and homocysteine levels.

In the study, the researchers evaluated blood samples from 191 non-smoking coffee drinkers between the ages of 24 and 69. The otherwise healthy volunteers were randomly split into three groups. One group consumed no coffee, another drank between 1 and 3 cups of coffee per day and the third group drank more than 4 cups of coffee each day.

After 6 weeks, participants who abstained from consuming coffee showed a 10% decrease in homocysteine levels. Giving up coffee cut total cholesterol levels by 0.28 millimoles per liter, a weaker effect than seen in previous studies. The findings indicate that coffee terpenoids cause an elevated level of total cholesterol that is only partly removed by a coffee filter.

The scientists speculate that coffee consumption may interfere with the body's ability to keep homocysteine levels in check, possibly by inhibiting the action of the vitamins folate or B6.

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