A new genetic study, conducted by the researchers of the Australian Centre for Precision Health at the University of South Australia, has found that that long-term, heavy consumption of coffee (six or more cups a day) could increase the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).

The researchers found that excessive consumption of coffee increased the amount of fats (lipids) in the blood, eventually heightening the risk of CVD.

Prof. Elina Hyppönen of the University of South Australia said the finding is a kind of bitter pill to swallow, especially for those who love coffee if they want to stay away from CVD.

She said, “There’s certainly a lot of scientific debate about the pros and cons of coffee, but while it may seem like we’re going over old ground, it’s essential to fully understand how one of the world’s most widely consumed drinks can impact our health.”

“In this study, we looked at genetic and phenotypic associations between coffee intake and plasma lipid profiles — the cholesterols and fats in your blood — finding causal evidence that habitual coffee consumption contributes to an adverse lipid profile which can increase your risk of heart disease,” Prof. Hyppönen added.

“High levels of blood lipids are a known risk factor for heart disease, and interestingly, as coffee beans contain a very potent cholesterol-elevating compound (cafestol), it was valuable to examine them together,” she continued.

Prof. Hyppönen, who is the Centre Director of the Australian Centre for Precision Health, explained, “Cafestol is mainly present in unfiltered brews, such as French press, Turkish and Greek coffees, but it’s also in espressos, which is the base for most barista-made coffees, including lattes and cappuccinos.”

“There is no, or very little cafestol in filtered and instant coffee, so with respect to effects on lipids, those are good coffee choices,” she added “The implications of this study are potentially broad-reaching. In my opinion, it is especially important for people with high cholesterol or who are worried about getting heart disease to carefully choose what type of coffee they drink.”

“Importantly, the coffee-lipid association is dose-dependent — the more you drink unfiltered coffee the more it raises your blood lipids, putting you at greater risk of heart disease.”

Worldwide, nearly 3 billion cups of coffee are consumed on a daily basis. CVD is the number one cause of death, claiming nearly 18 million lives each year.

Prof. Hyppönen said it is always wise to choose filtered coffee. She said one should not overindulge, especially when it comes to stimulants.

“With coffee being close to the heart for many people, it’s always going to be a controversial subject,” she said. “Our research shows, excess coffee is clearly not good for cardiovascular health, which certainly has implications for those already at risk.”

“Of course, unless we know otherwise, the well-worn adage usually fares well — everything in moderation — when it comes to health, this is generally good advice,” she added. The article was originally published Thursday on Science Daily.