Decaffeinated coffee could be bad for the heart because it increases the levels of cholesterol in the blood, says a new US study. Researchers from the Piedmont-Mercer Centre for Health and Learning in Atlanta studied the effect of coffee on 187 people over a three-month period. In the study, those who drank only decaffeinated coffee had a heightened risk of contracting heart disease than those drinking normal caffeinated blends. "I believe it's not caffeinated but decaffeinated coffee that might promote heart disease risk factors," said lead researcher Robert Superko. The heart risk is not great - the fatty acids can be burned off easily by exercising. But someone with high cholesterol, who drinks four or five cups of decaffeinated coffee a day, might want to think about cutting down. In the study, the group was split into three smaller sub-groups: one group drank three to six caffeinated cups of coffee daily; another group did not drink coffee; while the third group drank three to six cups of decaffeinated coffee every day. The research team then analysed blood samples from each of the groups to see if they contained high levels of non-esterified fatty acids (NEFAs) and 'bad' cholesterol (apolipoprotein B) - common indicators of heart disease.
The researchers found that the group who drank only decaffeinated coffee experienced an 18 per cent rise in NEFAs and an eight per cent rise apolipoprotein B which is linked to cholesterol associated with heart disease. They also found changes in another type of cholesterol known as HDL2, which is also linked to high heart disease risk. Overweight people who took part in the study saw their levels of HLD2 increase by half. However, Robert Superko stressed that this did not mean one type of coffee was better, or worse, than the other. It is not a simple story of one type of coffee being good and the other bad," he said. "Those who are overweight but have normal apolipoprotein B levels might consider the potential benefit of drinking decaffeinated coffee over caffeinated coffee," he added. The British Heart Foundation (BHF) has given a cautious welcome to the findings, but has warned the public not to panic about drinking moderate amounts of decaffeinated coffee.
This study throws up some interesting questions about the potential heart risks and benefits of caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee," said Judy O'Sullivan, a spokeswoman for the BHF. However, as the study was quite small and short-term it is too soon to draw any firm conclusions about the use of coffee to reduce risk of heart disease. Additionally, the small study examined the effects of drinking three to six cups of black decaffeinated and caffeinated coffee daily. Therefore, it is not relevant for those who enjoy a coffee once or twice a day.