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Nutr J. 2011 May 15;10:48. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-10-48.

Cholesterol-raising diterpenes in types of coffee commonly consumed in Singapore, Indonesia and India and associations with blood lipids: a survey and cross sectional study.

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Centre for Molecular Epidemiology, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore, #05-02, 28 Medical Drive, 117456, Singapore.



To measure the content of cholesterol-raising diterpenes in coffee sold at the retailer level in Singapore, Indonesia and India and to determine the relationship of coffee consumption with lipid levels in a population-based study in Singapore.


Survey and cross-sectional study in local coffee shops in Singapore, Indonesia and India to measure the diterpene content in coffee, and a population-based study in Singapore to examine the relationship of coffee consumption and blood lipid levels. Interviews and coffee samples (n=27) were collected from coffee shops in Singapore, Indonesia and India. In addition, 3000 men and women who were Chinese, Malay, and Indian residents of Singapore participated in a cross-sectional study.


The traditional 'sock' method of coffee preparation used in Singapore resulted in cafestol concentrations comparable to European paper drip filtered coffee (mean 0.09±SD 0.064 mg/cup). This amount would result in negligible predicted increases in serum cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations. Similarly low amounts of cafestol were found in Indian 'filter' coffee that used a metal mesh filter (0.05±0.05 mg/cup). Coffee samples from Indonesia using the 'sock' method (0.85±0.41 mg/cup) or a metal mesh filter (0.98 mg/cup) contained higher amounts of cafestol comparable to espresso coffee. Unfiltered coffee from Indonesia contained an amount of cafestol (4.43 mg/cup) similar to Scandinavian boiled, Turkish and French press coffee with substantial predicted increases in serum cholesterol (0.33 mmol/l) and triglycerides (0.20 mmol/l) concentrations for consumption of 5 cups per day. In the Singaporean population, higher coffee consumption was not substantially associated with serum lipid concentrations after adjustment for potential confounders [LDL-cholesterol: 3.07 (95% confidence interval 2.97-3.18) for <1 cup/week versus 3.12 (2.99-3.26) for ≥3 cups/day; p trend 0.12].


Based on the low levels of diterpenes found in traditionally prepared coffee consumed in Singapore and India, coffee consumption in these countries does not appear to be a risk factor for elevation of serum cholesterol, whereas samples tested from Indonesia showed mixed results depending on the type of preparation method used.

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