For Lower LDL, Skip the Decaf

JANUARY 01, 2006

A recent study from the Fuqua Heart Center in Atlanta, Ga, shows that drinking decaffeinated coffee can actually raise a person's level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, the "bad" cholesterol associated with cardiovascular disease risk. The results of the study were presented at a meeting of the American Heart Association in November 2005.

The study, which was supported by the National Institutes of Health, included 187 volunteers randomly assigned to 3 groups: one group drank no coffee, one group drank 3 to 6 cups of decaffeinated coffee a day, and one group drank 3 to 6 cups of caffeinated coffee a day. All coffee was prepared in a specific way, and all subjects drank it black.

After 3 months, the researchers found no significant differences among the 3 groups in most of the factors related to heart disease risk: body mass index, blood pressure, heart rate, total cholesterol, triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein (the "good" cholesterol) levels, insulin levels, and glucose levels. Among those who drank only decaffeinated coffee, however, there was a significant rise in LDL levels and an increase in apolipoprotein B, a protein that may be an even greater indicator of heart disease risk than LDL alone. Researchers suggest that, in combination with diet, exercise, and weight loss, eliminating decaffeinated coffee from a patient's diet could lower LDL levels by up to 30%.