Coffee beans contain the diterpene cafestol, which raises plasma cholesterol concentrations in humans. Daily consumption of 2 g coffee oil, which provides approximately 60 mg cafestol (equivalent to 5.7 mg cafestol/MJ), increases plasma cholesterol concentrations by 28%. We studied the effect of cafestol in coffee oil on gerbils and rats to determine whether the pathways that lead to cafestol-induced hypercholesterolemia in humans are also present in other species. We fed coffee oil from the same batch used in humans to female gerbils and rats. Gerbils were fed a semipurified diet containing 0.5% or 5% (w/w) coffee oil (equivalent to 8.7 and 86.8 mg cafestol/MJ, respectively) in the presence or absence of 0.05% (w/w) cholesterol for a period of 10 weeks. When compared with the gerbils fed no coffee oil, the addition of 0.5% coffee oil to the diets did not affect plasma cholesterol. Plasma cholesterol was significantly higher only when 5% coffee oil was fed, both in the absence (1.01 mmol/L, 33% higher) and presence (1.87 mmol/L, 70% higher) of dietary cholesterol. Liver weight was also significantly higher when 5% coffee oil was fed. Rats were also fed diets containing 0.5% or 5% coffee oil (equivalent to 8.7 and 86.8 mg cafestol/MJ) with and without 0.05% cholesterol for 8 weeks. Feeding 0.5% coffee oil compared with no coffee oil resulted in significantly higher plasma cholesterol levels throughout the study both in the absence (0.46 mmol/L, 27% higher) and presence (0.28 mmol/L, 15% higher) of dietary cholesterol. Diets containing 5% coffee oil appeared to be toxic. Thus, coffee oil diterpenes can result in higher plasma cholesterol in gerbils and rats. The failure to observe these effects in previous studies may be due to doses that were too low.
Terpstra, A. H. M., Katan, M. B., der Weusten-van, M. P. M. E., de Roos, B., & Beynen, A. C. (2000). The hypercholesterolemic effect of cafestol in coffee oil in gerbils and rats. Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 11(6), 311-317. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0955-2863(00)00082-6