The bad news of a high cholesterol reading was a bit of a shock for me.
I knew my diet had slipped (too much red meat, too much cheese: I love cheese). Equally, I knew that to reduce cholesterol “all you had to do” was cut down on red meat and saturated fat.
I’d been doing blood work for some of my clients and was able to use my home blood test machine to check my level.
I was horrified.
3 weeks after a major diet shift my cholesterol remained stupidly high. I looked over the guidelines again, and focused on the fibre content, so I bought fibre ( oat and wheat) and added that. Rather than my horror 311 readings I was getting 270’s 280’s.
Still, 80 points over my threshold.
I then started daily tests and compared the results with my food diary. I saw days where I had nothing but some fruit and a few cups of coffee with stupid cholesterol levels.
Equally, I noticed a no coffee day, producing a low reading.
I started researching coffee. A lot.
What I rediscovered was this.
By the turn of the 20th century, medical, and food researchers knew one thing for sure.
Unfiltered coffee is a cholesterol bomb. There were so many studies all saying the same thing, and much of the research can be seen in this report
“Cafestol and Kahweol. Review of Toxicological Literature 1999”.
Drink unfiltered coffee and it sends your Cholesterol rocketing due to two chemicals in coffee called Cafestol and Kahweol.
The numerous tests and reports quoted in the review of Toxicological Literature nailed this fact to the mast (see appendix 1)
So why doesn’t every coffee shop in the UK have a massive warning plastered all over it? Everybody hears how bad red meat and saturated fat is for cholesterol, so when you see your doctor after a high cholesterol test, why don’t they ask about your coffee consumption?
Well, everybody loves coffee. So there is an understandable bias in its favour.
Crucially in the 1990’s when this was discovered, most people drank filtered coffee “the cholesterol-raising effect seems to be limited to coffee that hasn’t been filtered, which includes Turkish coffee, coffee brewed in a French press, and the boiled coffee consumed in Scandinavia” . (Harvard health in 2012 ) in fact “The cholesterol-raising ingredients in coffee are oily substances called diterpenes, and the two main types in coffee are cafestol (pronounced CAF-es-tol) and kahweol (pronounced KAH-we-awl).
But a paper filter traps most of the cafestol and kahweol, socoffee that’s been filtered probably has little, if any, effect on cholesterol levels.”
This was fine back in the last 20th century. We mainly drank filtered coffee then .
I’m 58, I know.
But Guess what? Since the start of the 21st century unfiltered coffee consumption has rocketed. While some coffee shops have an unfiltered coffee option, most push and market unfiltered coffee
I don’t know how many coffee shops there were in 1999, but since 2008 the amount of coffee shops in the UK have grown from 10,000 to 25,000 in 2019. Mostcoffee shops offer unfiltered coffee.
Thats a lot of cholesterol raising!
So, I should make it clear, I love coffee. The only effect this rediscovery has had on me is to switch to filtered coffee. I’ve even cut filter paper into small circles to put into espresso machines. Some coffee shop don’t mind doing this.
The real horror is this.
If I had gone back to my doctor, they would have pushed me to go on statins. They would not have even mentioned coffee. Im guessing that anyone who has 2 cups of unfiltered coffee a day, and is on statins, should drink filtered coffee and get retested ( having chatted to their doctor first , ofcourse)
In balance I should say that coffee and caffeine have health effects. I think, almost all of which can be obtained through the filtered variety.
In an open randomized study, healthy male and female volunteers who drank coffee containing 148 mg cafestol and kahweol daily for 30 days exhibited a considerable rise in total cholesterol (average mean, 31.6%), low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (50.2%), and triglyceride concentrations (87%) versus the control group (Heckers et al., 1994).
In three volunteers, consumption of highly purified cafestol (73 mg/day; 0.23 mmol/day) and kahweol (58 mg/day; 0.19 mmol/day) as the corresponding mono- and dipalmitates for 6 weeks increased the serum levels of cholesterol by 66 mg/dL (1.7 mmol/L) and triglycerides by 162 mg/dL (1.83 mmol/L) (Weusten-Van der Wouw et al., 1994).
In a randomized, crossover trial using healthy, normolipemic volunteers, six subjects received 2 g Arabica oil containing 72 mg (0.23 mmol) cafestol per day and 53 mg (0.17 mmol) kahweol per day, and five subjects received 2 g Robusta oil providing 40 mg (0.13 mmol) cafestol per day and 2 mg (0.006 mmol) kahweol per day (Mensink et al., 1995). Compared to a control group given placebo oil, serum triglyceride levels increased 71% in the group receiving Arabica oil and 61% in the group given Robusta oil. Serum cholesterol concentrations were increased by 13% for both oils.
Heckers, H., U. Göbel, and U. Kleppel. 1994. End of the coffee mystery: Diterpene alcohols raise serum low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglyceride levels. J. Intern. Med. 235(2):192-193.
Weusten-Van der Wouw, M.P.M.E., M.B. Katan, R. Viani, A.C. Huggett, R. Liardon, P.G. Lund-Larsen, D.S. Thelle, I. Ahola, A. Aro, S. Meyboom, and A.C. Beynen. 1994. Identity of the cholesterol-raising factor from boiled coffee and its effects on liver function enzymes. J. Lipid Res. 35:721-733.
I was reviewing my food diary/cholesterol log. On those days when I had a tiny breakfast, and in effect, fasted throughout the day ( with some cups of tea and a bit of fruit), on those days, I noticed the cholesterol went back up!
superficially the report
Intermountain Medical Center. “Fasting reduces cholesterol levels in prediabetic people over extended period of time, new research finds.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 June 2014.
States that fasting reduces cholesterol over the longer term however “During actual fasting days, cholesterol went up slightly in this study, as it did in our prior study of healthy people, but we did notice that over a six-week period cholesterol levels decreased by about 12 percent in addition to the weight loss,” said Dr. Horne
“Because we expect that the cholesterol was used for energy during the fasting episodes and likely came from fat cells, this leads us to believe fasting may be an effective diabetes intervention.”
The process of extracting LDL cholesterol from the fat cells for energy should help negate insulin resistance. In insulin resistance, the pancreas produces more and more insulin until it can no longer produce sufficient insulin for the body’s demands, then blood sugar rises.
“The fat cells themselves are a major contributor to insulin resistance, which can lead to diabetes,” he said. “Because fasting may help to eliminate and break down fat cells, insulin resistance may be frustrated by fasting.”
Dr. Horne says that more in-depth study is needed, but the findings lay the groundwork for that future study.
“Although fasting may protect against diabetes,” said Dr. Horne. “It’s important to keep in mind that these results were not instantaneous in the studies that we performed. It takes time. How long and how often people should fast for health benefits are additional questions we’re just beginning to examine.”
This clearly leads into a re-evaluation of intermittent fasting
The European Society of Endocrinology asked “Could intermittent fasting diets increase diabetes risk? Fasting every other day to lose weight impairs the action of sugar-regulating hormone, insulin, which may increase diabetes risk.” ScienceDaily. 20 May 2018.
Their conclusion was “Fasting every other day to lose weight impairs the action of sugar-regulating hormone, insulin, which may increase diabetes risk, according to data presented in Barcelona at the European Society of Endocrinology annual meeting, ECE 2018. These findings suggest that fasting-based diets may be associated with long-term health risks and careful consideration should be made before starting such weight loss programmes”
Anecdotally this makes me think about lots of thin/skinny people I know, who have poor health!
If you start thinking about the function of cholesterol, it allegedly (among other things) modulates membrane fluidity over a range of temperatures.
in Habitat temperature is an important determinant of cholesterol contents in copepods where it states “The most consistent trend is the positive relationship between cholesterol content and habitat temperature. Species residing in warmer habitats (e.g. Centropages typicus, Eurytemora affinis) had approximately twice the cholesterol of species living in colder waters (e.g. Calanus glacialis, Euchaeta norvegica). A similar pattern was observed for comparisons of species within genera (Calanus, Acartia and Centropages), with the species abundant at lower latitudes having more cholesterol than the northern congener. These data indicate that habitat temperature is an important determinant of cholesterol content, and cholesterol endows membranes with the stability required for a range of body temperatures”.
Maybe crustations and humans probably don’t have that much in common.
If you are curious about cholesterol, here is an interesting slide share
Ive only just discovered the existence of Thincs, a body that questions the link between saturated fats , cholesterol and heart disease.
According to their website, “The International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics (THINCS) is a steadily growing group of scientists, physicians, other academicians and science writers from various countries. Members of this group represent different views about the causation of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease, some of them are in conflict with others, but this is a normal part of science. What we all oppose is that animal fat and high cholesterol play a role. The aim with this website is to inform our colleagues and the public that this idea is not supported by scientific evidence; in fact, for many years a huge number of scientific studies have directly contradicted it”.
This is an amazing read, and is part of my cholesterol studies
“Consuming fructose-sweetened, not glucose-sweetened, beverages increases visceral adiposity and lipids and decreases insulin sensitivity in overweight/obese humans” found here
take home message is here:
“Studies in animals have documented that, compared with glucose, dietary fructose induces dyslipidemia and insulin resistance. To assess the relative effects of these dietary sugars during sustained consumption in humans, overweight and obese subjects consumed glucose- or fructose-sweetened beverages providing 25% of energy requirements for 10 weeks. Although both groups exhibited similar weight gain during the intervention, visceral adipose volume was significantly increased only in subjects consuming fructose. Fasting plasma triglyceride concentrations increased by approximately 10% during 10 weeks of glucose consumption but not after fructose consumption. In contrast, hepatic de novo lipogenesis (DNL) and the 23-hour postprandial triglyceride AUC were increased specifically during fructose consumption. Similarly, markers of altered lipid metabolism and lipoprotein remodeling, including fasting apoB, LDL, small dense LDL, oxidized LDL, and postprandial concentrations of remnant-like particle–triglyceride and –cholesterol significantly increased during fructose but not glucose consumption. In addition, fasting plasma glucose and insulin levels increased and insulin sensitivity decreased in subjects consuming fructose but not in those consuming glucose. These data suggest that dietary fructose specifically increases DNL, promotes dyslipidemia, decreases insulin sensitivity, and increases visceral adiposity in overweight/obese adults”
Throughout the fitness industry, people are busting a gut to sell you dubious pills and potions.
However there are naturally occurring, non controversial substances that cure or alleviate many dangerous medical conditions. I’ve discussed Chia seeds here, today its Psyllium.
Pysllium is magic.
Some fun Pysllium facts
Psyllium is a soluble fiber derived from the seeds of Plantago ovata. Grown mainly in India
Because of its great water solubility, psyllium can absorb water and become a thick, viscous compound that resists digestion in the small intestine.
Its resistance to digestion allows it to help regulate high cholesterol, triglycerides and blood sugar levels. For me, there are 2 notable areas where it helps
A) Blood sugar regulation
One study treated 56 diabetic men with 5.1 grams of psyllium twice per day for eight weeks. It reduced their daily blood sugar levels by 11% (see here for reference).
Other studies indicate the same , with a guess that 10gms a day is the magic figure
A review of 21 studies reported that reductions in total and LDL cholesterol are dose dependent. This means greater results were observed with treatments of 20.4 grams of psyllium per day than 3 grams per day
5 gms x 3 times a day with a glass of water, but increase water consumption in general. It is a bit difficult to get that much down!
29 grams of chia seeds provides up to 42% of your daily recommended fiber, plus phosphorus, magnesium, calcium and omega-3 fatty acids ( which are good btw!). Don’t take my dubious word for it. Look up :
“A dietary pattern including nopal, chia seed, soy protein, and oat reduces serum triglycerides and glucose intolerance in patients with metabolic syndrome” says so (check it out here).
What a read.
But, what this really means is that if you don’t include things like chia seeds and psyllium husks in your diet, you are a bit of a moron.
I should say, however, that I’d never heard of “nopal” until I read the above study. It’s a prickly pear cactus, comes from Mexico and has a high antioxidant, vitamin, mineral, and fiber content.