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Comparison of effect of cafetiere and filtered coffee on serum concentrations of liver aminotransferases and lipids: six month randomised controlled trial

BMJ 1996; 313 doi: (Published 30 November 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;313:1362
  1. Rob Urgert, nutrition researchera,
  2. Saskia Meyboom, dietitiana,
  3. Marjan Kuilman, nutrition researchera,
  4. Henny Rexwinkel, nutrition researchera,
  5. Maud N Vissers, nutrition researchera,
  6. Mariska Klerk, nutrition researchera,
  7. Martijn B Katan, professora (martijn.katan{at}
  1. a Department of Human Nutrition, Wageningen Agricultural University, Bomeneg 2, 6703 HD Wageningen, the Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to: Dr Katan.
  • Accepted 9 October 1996


Objective: To study the effects of prolonged intake of cafetiere coffee, which is rich in the diterpenes cafestol and kahweol, on serum aminotransferase and lipid concentrations.

Design: Randomised parallel controlled trial.

Subjects: 46 healthy men and women aged 19 to 69.

Intervention: Consumption of five to six strong cups (0.9 litres) a day of either cafetiere (22 subjects) or filtered coffee (24 subjects) for 24 weeks.

Main outcome measures: Mean changes in serum aminotransferase and lipid concentrations.

Results: Cafetiere coffee raised alanine aminotransferase concentration by up to 80% above baseline values relative to filtered coffee. After 24 weeks the rise was still 45% (9 U/l (95% confidence interval 3 to 15 U/l), P = 0.007). Alanine aminotransferase concentration exceeded the upper limit of normal in eight of the 22 subjects drinking cafetiere coffee, being twice the upper limit of normal in three of them. Cafetiere coffee raised low density lipoprotein cholesterol concentrations by 9–14%. After 24 weeks the rise was 0.26 mmol/l (0.04 to 0.47 mmol/l) (P = 0.03) relative to filtered coffee. Triglyceride concentrations initially rose by 26% with cafetiere coffee but returned close to baseline values within six months. All increases were reversible after the intervention was stopped.

Conclusions: Daily consumption of five to six cups of strong cafetiere coffee affects the integrity of liver cells as suggested by small increases in serum alanine aminotransferase concentration. The effect does not subside with prolonged intake. High intakes of coffee brews rich in cafestol and kahweol may thus be responsible for unexplained increases in this enzyme activity in apparently healthy subjects. Cafetiere coffee also raises low density lipoprotein cholesterol concentration and thus the risk of coronary heart disease.

Key messages

  • This randomised study found that cafetiere coffee also increased alanine aminotransferase and low density lipoprotein cholesterol concentrations, and they were still raised after six months of daily intake.

  • Filtered coffee had no effect

  • The increase in liver enzyme activity could be innocuous, but the increase in cholesterol concentration may increase coronary risk and could be a reason to advise patients to drink filtered coffee


  • Funding Netherlands Heart Foundation through the Netherlands Organisation of Scientific Research (grant No 900–562-091).

  • Conflict of interest None.

  • Accepted 9 October 1996
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