Coffee, Triglyceride Levels, And The Health Of Your Heart

11 min read MAR 23, 2023
Over the years, we’ve learned how many foods or beverages can bring great benefit to the health of our bodies.

But, sometimes new findings flip those notions upside down, then right side up again, and back and forth it goes.

Perhaps you’ve heard of these familiar healthy/unhealthy foods or food group flips:

  • Eggs are great for your heart. Eggs can cause high cholesterol. Eat eggs as part of a heart-healthy diet.
  • Carbs are needed as part of a balanced diet. Carbs make you fat. Choose carbs wisely.
  • Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables offers the greatest benefit to your health. Fruits and vegetables aren’t essential, instead consuming meat alone, organs and all, offers the optimal nutrition your body needs.

So then, what about coffee? Has this beloved bean fallen victim to such a flip?

Some research findings suggest yes, indicating that coffee can be linked to significantly elevated triglyceride levels.

Heart disease, carotid artery disease, pancreatitis, and coffee? Hold on a minute…One of these things is not like the others, one of these things does not belong!

Most of us are familiar with the fact that coffee is known for its profound positive impacts on the body, so could there be more to the story here, more than meets the eye with these research findings?

As in the cases of the other foods/groups listed above, the same is true of coffee, where a broad look at a few studies can be misleading, even prompting claims without full merit.

So, today we’d like to fully examine the situation, taking a look at how coffee truly affects triglyceride levels, and how these levels affect our bodies in the first place.

Then, we’ll see how what we add to our brew can affect triglycerides, even looking at the way we brew coffee, discovering whether varying methods can alter its benefits.

In other words, what’s the real scoop, the whole story, on coffee and triglycerides?

What are Triglycerides, and how do They Affect Your Body?

Triglycerides are a type of waxy fat, or lipids, found in your blood. They are the most common type of fat found in the body.

We generally hear of triglycerides in reference to cholesterol as medical professionals typically observe these levels as part of a cholesterol check. But, the two are actually very different.

While cholesterol and triglycerides are both lipids found in your blood, their similarities essentially end there.

Cholesterol is needed for cell and hormone production. And, triglycerides help supply your body with energy.

When you consume calories, your body gets an immediate boost of energy, but any calories your body doesn’t need at that time get stored in your fat cells as triglycerides.

Then, in between meal times, your hormones can prompt the release of these stored triglycerides to give you energy.

Of course, if you’re consuming an excessive amount of calories, more than your body can burn, you’re essentially storing up too much energy in the form of these lipids, leading to elevated triglyceride levels or hypertriglyceridemia.

Appropriate or normal triglyceride levels are needed by your body for energy, but when you have too many stored, this can increase your risk of heart disease.

So then, what’s normal, high, or too high when it comes to triglycerides?

Generally triglyceride levels are evaluated through blood testing with the following parameters:

  • less than 150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl) is normal
  • 150-199 mg/dl is considered borderline high
  • 200-499 mg/dl is categorized as high
  • 500 mg/dl and above is considered very high

And, once these levels are elevated above normal, or in the high range, you can experience a myriad of health issues, particularly those related to your heart.

High triglycerides can cause the walls of your arteries to thicken, leading to hardening.

When your arteries harden, this hinders their ability to deliver blood, oxygen, and other nutrients to your body. As arteries harden, this can also cause them to narrow, leading to blockages that can cause tissue death, infection, heart attack, or stroke.

When triglyceride levels reach extremely high levels, this can also cause inflammation in the pancreas, leading to pancreatitis.

Elevated triglyceride levels may also indicate other health concerns such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Metabolic syndrome (increasing the risk of heart disease even further)
  • Hypothyroidism (low levels of thyroid hormones)

Overall, regular exercise, healthy weight management, consuming healthy fats, and limiting sugar and processed carbohydrate intake can effectively keep triglyceride levels healthy.

Speaking specifically of beverages? Those which experts urge consumers to avoid due to their negative effects on triglyceride levels include:

  • sweetened iced tea
  • regular soda
  • artificially sweetened fruit juices
  • some (regular) fruit juices
  • alcohol

But, as we hinted earlier in reference to research findings, our beloved java can potentially appear on the above list too.

So then, let’s examine the supposed link between coffee and triglycerides and find out how to best enjoy our brew for optimal health!

Coffee and Triglycerides

Nearly 75% of Americans enjoy coffee, with half of those folks drinking 3-5 cups daily.

And, with this kind of beverage-love, this explains why headlines that hint of coffee being a significant contributor to raised cholesterol and triglyceride levels can be alarming.

But, these headlines can be misleading…

The studies that link coffee to significant increases in triglycerides have found this correlation to only be true of unfiltered, or boiled, coffee, including french press and Greek or Turkish styles of brewing.

Unfiltered coffee is defined as coffee that is prepared by simmering grounds in ‘close to boiling’ water.

In regards to these studies, researchers specifically looked at the effects of boiled and filtered coffee consumption on blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels.

Here, coffee raised total cholesterol levels by 8.1 mg/dl and triglyceride levels by 12.6 mg/dl.

The interesting thing though? When consuming filtered coffee, those participants, both men and women, who drank up to four cups daily showed no change at all in their triglyceride levels.

Why is there such a difference?

Boiled, or unfiltered, coffee is thought to cause such an increase here due to compounds found in this beloved brew called diterpenes. And, without the use of a filter, these remain in your brew and can cause blood lipid levels to rise.

Contrarily, the use of a filter when preparing coffee has been shown to nullify the impact of diterpenes completely.

So, to put it bluntly, if you brew your coffee with the use of a filter, what’s in your mug has no effect on your triglyceride levels whatsoever, especially if you enjoy your coffee black.

Drinking coffee black (and filtered) is actually considered neutral in regards to its effects on triglyceride levels.

Black coffee even qualifies as a permitted beverage (along with water) before a fasting lipoprotein test, which measures both cholesterol and triglycerides.

The problem here? Many folks do enjoy adding things to their mug.

Some could even say the primary problem with coffee and triglyceride levels lies in what many add to their brew.

The two most common coffee additions, of course, are cream and sugar.

In the case of cream, most milks and creamers can be high in fat, which can increase triglyceride levels.

Then, both sugar and sweetened/flavored syrups can significantly raise triglycerides as these are high in carbohydrates.

Of course, if you don’t like to drink your coffee black, there are ways to incorporate additions to your brew that support your health.

Honey, for instance, is naturally sweet, a product of nature that actually lowers both LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides.

And, almond milk and other plant based milks are popular, creamy coffee additions that have been shown to have positive effects on triglyceride levels.

So, as long as you’re filtering your brew and choosing healthy additions, or enjoying your coffee black, not only do you not have to worry about your cup of joe raising triglyceride levels, it can even improve your health in the exact areas these elevated triglycerides can cause concern!

Of course, this sounds too good to be true for many folks, as for many years, coffee was thought to be a big no-no for those suffering from heart disease.

This theory likely took root due to coffee’s caffeine content, as this stimulant can increase your heart rate. Then, when combined with these findings surrounding unfiltered coffee and elevated triglyceride levels, this, of course, can cause concern for heart patients.

But, the fact of the matter is, other than a few, limited styles of brewing and the addition of unhealthy additives to your mug, coffee truly boasts great benefits to your heart.

In fact, drinking just 2-3 cups of coffee each day has been proven, repeatedly, to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.

And, this reduced risk was actually found to be true of both regular and decaffeinated coffee, with caffeinated coffee also having been linked to the added benefit of a reduced risk of arrhythmias such as atrial fibrillation.

To get a more clear picture of this, let’s take a quick look at the numbers regarding these findings.
A review of multiple studies including ten years of follow-up for more than 21,000 adults who drink up to three cups of coffee daily found:

  • folks who drink more coffee had a lower long-term risk of heart failure
  • the risk of heart failure dropped by 5-12% per cup daily compared to those who did not drink coffee
  • in those participants involved in the study measuring arterial disease risk, drinking more than two cups of coffee daily lowered their risk by 30%

The thing is, coffee contains more than 100 biologically active compounds, and some of these compounds seem to help the heart by blocking receptors involved in abnormal heart rhythms.

Of these compounds, it does appear that caffeine is the primary one linked to these heart benefits, but your brew’s antioxidant content works wonders as well, reducing oxidative stress, lowering inflammation levels, and improving insulin sensitivity.

How do each of these help your heart? Simply put…

  • Oxidative stress can lead to cell death and is thought to be a major contributor of heart attack and heart failure.
  • Chronic inflammation affects the valves and lining of the heart, the muscle itself, and the tissues surrounding this organ. Inflammation can lead to irregular heart beat, heart failure, and coronary artery disease.
  • Insulin sensitivity is what you want; it’s a good thing. Insulin resistance, on the other hand, is what happens when your body stops responding to insulin, and this causes changes in the pathways that signal to your heart, which can lead to heart failure.

Coffee helps to improve the health of your heart by combating each of these potential heart health hinderers. And, for the sake of reiteration, has no negative effect on triglyceride levels when consumed black, brewed with a filter, or in conjunction with healthy additions.

A Heart Healthy Brew

To get the best benefits of your cup of joe, including avoiding any elevation in your triglyceride levels, consider the following:

First, choose a clean coffee.

This is paramount for flavor, nutrition profile, and allows you to gain all the benefits coffee has to offer.

Mass produced coffee is often grown in large deforested areas in the fastest possible timeframes, meaning:

  • it often uses hybrid plants that allow for full sun growth
  • it incorporate the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides in the growing process
  • it often contains high amounts of molds and mycotoxins due to growing, harvesting, and processing methods

While such coffee still possesses some of the antioxidant content and benefits we know this brew to contain, it’s like taking one step forward and two steps back when it comes to reaping these healthy rewards.

So, to avoid these health hinderers, choose a clean coffee.

Lifeboost coffee is certified organic, non-GMO, and is grown in elevated, shaded, rainforest mountain areas amongst native plants and wildlife. This allows the coffee to mature at a slower rate, producing a more nutrient dense coffee cherry.

And, Lifeboost coffee never incorporates the use of chemicals in the growing process, meaning you’ll never have to worry about sipping these health harmers when enjoying your brew.

All Lifeboost coffee is also 3rd party tested for 400+ molds, mycotoxins, chemicals, and heavy metals to ensure you’re always getting the cleanest, healthiest coffee possible.
Next, when enjoying your clean, healthy coffee, to avoid any negative effects on triglyceride levels:

  • seek to drink your brew black
  • when enjoying creamy additions, seek heart healthy options such as plant milks
  • avoid artificially flavored or processed creamers
  • when enjoying heavy cream, limit amounts here as the fats here can increase triglycerides
  • avoid table sugar or processed sugary/flavored syrups
  • incorporate natural sugars like honey or (real/pure) monk fruit, which actually have heart healthy effects of their own

Unsweetened cocoa powder, oat milk, nutmeg, cinnamon, pure vanilla extract, and stevia are also other common (and delicious) additions that add great flavor (and health benefits) to your brew.

Then, when it comes to brewing methods, the use of a filter may help to avoid any unwanted elevation in triglyceride levels.

Medical Disclaimer
This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Charles Livingston nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program.


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