Daily consumption of four cups of coffee may give you the jitters, but a Johns Hopkins University study has concluded that it can't be blamed for raising levels of blood cholesterol to any harmful degree.
The good news for coffee enthusiasts emerged from a study of 100 healthy men. Researchers at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine wanted to see if coffee heightened one of the primary causes of heart disease: high levels of cholesterol in the blood, a condition that is thought to predispose some people to clogged coronary arteries.
The 16-week study, described in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association, found that the link was weak: A four-cup-a-day regimen of filtered coffee raised a person's cholesterol only slightly. And the difference was not enough to put the heart in any danger.
Although the study may put one concern to rest, the larger mystery of coffee's effects on human health has not been settled.
"It's still an open question," Dr. David M. Levine, director of internal medicine at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, said at a news briefing Tuesday. "The current study shows that if there turns out to be a positive relationship (between coffee and heart disease), it's not due to cholesterol."
Another Johns Hopkins study has found preliminary evidence that coffee drinkers have slightly higher rates of heart disease, but that study was not designed to rule out the possibility that other factors such as smoking or fatty diets were actually to blame. Additionally, a well-known study based in Framingham, Mass., has found no link between coffee and heart disease.