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Heart Health

Updated 28 April 2020

Coffee keeping you going during lockdown? Choose filtered as the healthiest option

If you find yourself needing a second cup before your day in lockdown has even started, you might be doing your health a favour – if you choose the correct brew.

We all have our snack or beverage of choice to keep us sustained and energised when we're working from home. If you need coffee to deliver your best, the least you can do is to make sure it's as healthy as possible. 

Research to examine the links between the way you brew your coffee and the risks of heart attacks and death concluded that filtered coffee is your healthiest choice.

This study was published in The European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

"Our study provides strong and convincing evidence of a link between coffee brewing methods, heart attacks and longevity," said study author Professor Dag S. Thelle of the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

"Unfiltered coffee contains substances which increase blood cholesterol. Using a filter removes these and makes heart attacks and premature death less likely," he stated. 

Coffee and cholesterol?

Like it or loathe it, coffee is a popular beverage worldwide and there have been many debates about its benefits. According to a news report, Professor Thelle discovered nearly three decades ago that drinking coffee was linked with higher cholesterol – specifically the “bad” LDL cholesterol.

But experiments concluded that this side-effect was largely caused by substances that can be removed using a filter. A cup of unfiltered coffee contains almost 30 times the concentration of the substance that is known to raise LDL cholesterol.

Thelle said: "We wondered whether this effect on cholesterol would result in more heart attacks and death from heart disease. But it was unethical to do a trial randomising people to drink coffee or not. So, we set up a large population study, and several decades later we are reporting the results."

What the study entailed

This study was conducted between 1985 and 2003 and looked at 508 747 healthy men and women between the ages of 20 and 79. They all completed a questionnaire on the type of coffee they consumed, and data on general health factors such as height, weight, blood pressure and cholesterol were collected.

A total of 46 341 participants died over the course of 20 years. Of those, 12 621 deaths were due to cardiovascular disease. Of the cardiovascular deaths, 6 202 were caused by a heart attack.

Compared to no coffee, filtered brew was linked with a 15% reduced risk of death from any cause during follow up, according to the news report. In death from cardiovascular disease, filtered brew was associated with a 12% decreased risk of death in men and a 20% lowered risk of death in women compared to no coffee.

The lowest mortality was among those who drank one to four cups of filtered coffee per day.

Professor Thelle said: "The finding that those drinking the filtered beverage did a little better than those not drinking coffee at all could not be explained by any other variable such as age, gender, or lifestyle habits. So, we think this observation is true."

Choose the best you can afford

Filtered brew was also less risky than the unfiltered beverage for death from any cause, death due to cardiovascular disease, and deaths from heart attacks. "Our analysis shows that this was partly because of the cholesterol-increasing effect of unfiltered coffee," said Professor Thelle.

Professor Thelle noted that unfiltered coffee did not necessarily raise the risk of death compared to completely cutting out coffee.

He said: "We believe that some women and younger men drinking unfiltered coffee switched to filtered, thereby reducing the strength of the association with cardiovascular mortality, whereas older men were less inclined to change their habits."

The outcome? Keep your cholesterol low and your heart healthy by choosing the best filtered coffee you can afford.

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