Your fancy French press coffee isn’t good for you

Say what you will, coffee purists, but the best way to brew is by the humble drip method, cardiologists claim.

Between 2018 and 2019, the world’s coffee growers produced nearly 1.357 trillion pounds of coffee, and the unfathomable number of cups of joe that makes means the plant-derived stimulant has far-reaching health effects.

A Swedish university study that aimed to analyze the risks associated with different brewing methods has revealed that drinking filtered coffee is more heart-healthy than not.

Filtered coffee, as with drip or pour-over, provided a 15% cut in risk of death from any cause. In terms of cardiovascular-disease risk, filtered coffee was linked to a 12% decreased risk of death in men, and a 20% discount for women.

Published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, the findings — which include that drinking filtered coffee may actually extend your life compared to drinking no coffee at all — are a boon to coffee snobs everywhere.

“Our study provides strong and convincing evidence of a link between coffee brewing methods, heart attacks and longevity,” said University of Gothenburg professor Dag S. Thelle. “Unfiltered coffee contains substances which increase blood cholesterol. Using a filter removes these and makes heart attacks and premature death less likely.”

Thelle has been studying coffee for a long time. In the early ’90s, he discovered that coffee-drinking was linked to higher rates of cholesterol, particularly “bad” LDL cholesterol. Further experimentation uncovered the lipid-raising compounds in coffee, and showed that unfiltered coffee contained 30 times the concentration of those substances compared to filtered.

They wanted to take their research a step further, to determine whether a coffee-induced cholesterol spike put drinkers at a greater risk of heart disease.

“But it was unethical to do a trial randomizing people to drink coffee or not,” said Thelle in a statement on the European Society of Cardiology’s website. “So we set up a large population study and several decades later we are reporting the results.”

Over 500,000 Norwegian men and women, ages 20 to 79, enrolled in the study, which lasted from 1985 to 2003. The region is known for its particularly high coffee consumption. (Currently, the Netherlands is the world’s leading per capita consumer of the stimulant.)

For an average of 20 years, volunteers answered periodic surveys about their coffee drinking habits, how much, what type and when, as well as other aspects of a health profile, including body measurements, blood pressure, cholesterol, history with cigarettes and level of exercise.

During the study period, 46,341 participants died, 12,621 deaths were caused by cardiovascular disease and 6,202 were the result of a heart attack.

Those who drank between one and four cups of filtered coffee per day showed the lowest mortality rates of the entire cohort. Other studies have suggested that up to 25 cups a day could still be considered safe for your heart.

“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,” said Thelle.

Overall, they determined that coffee-drinking is generally not a significant contributor to premature death. The only age group whose coffee drinking actually elevated mortality rates was men ages 60 and above, and only when the brew was unfiltered, such as with a French press or Turkish style, which brews with finely ground beans directly in the cup. This, said Thelle, is likely tied to the “cholesterol-increasing effect of unfiltered coffee,” as previous research had uncovered.

Coffee’s potential benefits go beyond the heart. Other studies have put coffee consumers at a lower risk of other illnesses, including Type 2 diabetes, depression and some neurodegenerative diseases, namely Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, according to Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

“For people who know they have high cholesterol levels and want to do something about it, stay away from unfiltered brew,” he said. “For everyone else, drink your coffee with a clear conscience and go for filtered.”

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