Note from Dave: Sean is a prolific member of the LMHR Facebook Group and I was keen to share this remarkable experiment with you all as a guest post here. Enjoy!
My name is Sean Brennan and I have been on a ketogenic diet for 14 months now, beginning on Thanksgiving of 2017. It has been awesome – 35 pounds melted away in the first 6 months and I have a more stable mood, better digestion, resolved eczema, and have more control over my appetite.
Unfortunately, I did not do a baseline blood test prior to the diet, however, I found a blood test from 2011, while I was eating a High Carb Low Fat/Standard American Diet. I was probably eating a vegan diet at that time: total cholesterol was at 191 mg/dL and HDL at 38 mg/dL.
Test #2 – Unexpected High Trigs
I had read that if you are in the middle of losing weight you could skew your blood test, so I waited until my weight stabilized to get testing done. Back when I was eating a vegan diet several years ago, I became aware that saturated fat increased my cholesterol. I had tested around 240 mg/dL (the horror!) and I promptly decreased my coconut oil (high saturated fat) intake and saw my number drop to 165 mg/dL. So, when my initial test came back after a keto way of eating with a total cholesterol of 313 mg/dL, I was not surprised. However, I was very surprised at my triglyceride reading of 131 mg/dL.
Typically, on a ketogenic diet it is expected that triglycerides drop like a stone due to the limited carbohydrate intake. In fact, many people will have a triglyceride to HDL ratio approaching 1:1. So, I was a little concerned that my ratio was 131:47 or 2.79:1.
Looking For Answers
Thankfully, I was aware of cholesterolcode.com and Dave and Siobhan’s work. I promptly became a member of their Facebook group for Lean Mass Hyper-responders, and asked for advice regarding my numbers. Siobhan directed me to a blog post for people who likewise had high triglycerides while on a Low Carb High Fat diet.
Of the suggestions listed, the only one that stood out to me as a possibility was a coffee sensitivity. Prior to test #3, I had 1-3 cups of coffee per day for several months. So, I decided to cut it out and retest.
Test #3, #4, & #5 – No Coffee
Somewhat painfully, I was able to cut out coffee for four days prior to test #3. My triglyceride test result was 76 mg/dL, a dramatic decline from 131 mg/dL! Better yet, my trig:HDL ratio was 76:51 or 1.49:1. I was a happy camper! I maintained my coffee abstinence and achieved similar, if not slightly improving triglyceride results, for test #4 & #5 of 71 & 70, respectively.
Test #6 & #7, Back on Coffee
To confirm the effect of coffee on my triglycerides, I drank a cup of black, French press prepared coffee on two consecutive days and re-tested. My trigs effectively doubled back up to 140 mg/dL! For test #7, I drank filtered coffee for a week and saw similar results of 147 mg/dL.
Test #8 & #9 – Decaf Result
I abstained for another week and predictably my triglycerides fell back to 63 mg/dL. For one final test, I drank decaf for a week and interestingly saw my triglycerides climb back up to 125 mg/dL.
To Sum It All Up…
So, it is clear to me that unfiltered, filtered, and decaf coffee dramatically raise my triglycerides by a factor of 2. This is quite the effect, although I really am not sure why this happens or if it is harmful (though it definitely makes me uncomfortable).
Dave suggested that there is some evidence to support the hypothesis that coffee increases lipolysis, that is, it possibly super charges fat trafficking. Another interesting tidbit of information is that I have a gene (CYP1A2 – rs762551(A;C)) that indicates slow caffeine metabolism – although this may or may not be related.
Where to Go From Here?
What do I plan to do with this information? Well, it has been theorized that while eating a low carbohydrate diet, high total and LDL cholesterol may not be harmful especially if one’s trig to HDL ratio is low. I am comfortable living by this theory, and therefore, I think it is in my best interest to keep triglycerides low by greatly reducing coffee intake (and maintaining my low carb lifestyle). I don’t think there will be a net loss to my well-being, since coffee tends to lower my energy after the initial bump, boost my stress hormones, negatively affect my digestion, and sometimes interferes with my sleep quality. So, as the reasons stack up against coffee for me, I plan to only have it as an occasional treat or productivity boost.
Very interesting thank you! Do you think the mechanism is related to caffeine directly, or perhaps some other compound found in coffee? I am a heavy tea drinker with low trig, but I can’t stand the taste/smell of coffee otherwise I would experiment myself. Also I believe tea typically has much less caffeine than coffee does.
Well, he did do a bout of decaf coffee, which ended up with him raising his triglycerides again. But, in all fairness, decaf coffee still has some caffeine. So it’s a bit of an unknown… but if it were caffeine I’d at least expect *less* of an effect from a lower dose (e.g. decaf) which isn’t what happened. It’s quite curious.
I am a coffee lover and usually drank about 6 espressos a day. It did worry me enough when my cholesterol suddenly became high to start reading and I found an article saying it is not the caffeine but caffistol that raises cholesterol. If you stop coffee your cholesterol will be down in 2 weeks. I did and 2 weeks later my cholesterol was low again. Interestingly also was the fact that espresso or the plunger method is worse because a paper filter removes most of the caffistol whereas the metal filter does not remove it.
That’s really interesting. My GP will be happy if my LDL comes down as well.
There are studies coming out, or they’ve been out there and I have just started learning about them, that higher ldl decreases all cause mortality in those over 50. Which does make sense since a big killer in the elderly is inflammation.
There was a large Danish study recently that concluded exactly the opposite (from memory) which leaves one to ask “WTF is going on?”.
My sense, and it only that, is that LDL is conveniently portrayed as a dangerous marker that can be magically “fixed” through pharmaceutical products, irrespective of side-effects and whether or not it actually addresses the underlying issue or is just a false sense of security with side-effects. Much the same way that currently the Covid19 “vaccines” are being marketed and pushed as the only effective solution to a respiratory disease with very specific profiles i.e. will not impact almost everyone. Yet, products, boosters, and then sets the stage for further approach with other health issues. Wrong direction!
Yes we drink tea and coffee. Tea also contains caffeine. Any volunteers with home monitor for conducting a trigs test for tea? Just as important as coffee!
I’m interested in this question too. I’m not a coffee drinker but I drink yarrow tea as it is supposed to help lower cholesterol. I have high trig and cholesterol
It’s only a very small group of people that are affected by coffee in this way. I am one of them. I’ve switched to tea and will have a blood panel done in about 10 weeks. Will report back.
Any news? Thank you!
Facts are coffee is bad for anyone. It is not sensitivity to coffee… it is what coffee/caffeine does to your body. Caffeine is a stimulant and a stressor. I had the same issue… stop coffee and tri’s go down. Coffee makes your cholesterol and triglycerides go up and makes you fat. When you drink coffee it causes your cortisol levels to sky rocket and can lead to adrenal fatigue. When cortisol goes up, your cholesterol and triglycerides go up to. Unfortunately the coffee industry has $$ and pay for funding’s of studies that suggest that coffee is go for you… diabetes and so forth. But in truth coffee causes insulin resistance.
Hi – I’m really curious as to if you have studies supporting this? I do know plenty of people who drink coffee and are thin, have low triglycerides, are insulin sensitive, etc. I was drinking it regularly myself up until a couple of weeks ago and triglycerides came back at <100 consistently. Additionally, people with the supposed coffee sensitivity can drink other caffeinated beverages (e.g. tea) and not see the triglyceride effect. Decaf coffee also results in higher triglycerides in these people, and the people affected is certainly not the majority. So it does seem to only impact a small number of people, and seems to specifically be coffee - so I'm interested in your interpretation. 🙂
Ya have to be a Dr. To understand this study…
Here’s a study on the benefits of coffee
It all depends on the person! CYP1A2 will show if caffeine is helpful or harmful or a wash. COMT can show if catecholamines in coffee/tea will be helpful or harmful.
Completely true and totally agree, if you want more real info read: “Caffeine Blues: Wake Up to the Hidden Dangers of America’s #1 Drug” by Stephen Snehan Cherniske and join the Quitting Caffeine group on facebook – you’ll find a lot of stories about how “good” the caffeine is for the body….
How will I get all my fat in me without my 1-2 cups in the morning, some decaf some half-caff…
I’m CC, and find a difference in pulse (-4-5bpm) and BP (-10-12 points, diastolic and systolic) when I eschew coffee. It may increase my TG some, but I find my level of exercise a bigger factor.
YMMV, of course.
I also have (CYP1A2 – rs762551(A;C)), but my last TG in Dec was 74. 2-3 cups of coffee a day. So, that may not have anything to do with it. On Keto for 9 months with stable weight in Dec. TC 242, TG 74, HDL 66, LDL 161. I am not sure if I am “lean”, but the meter at the gym says my BF % is 16.
Check your Lp(a).. you may have it.
Would love to see people do similar tests using a third group: decaf coffee. Is it the coffee bean, or caffeine?
He actually did do decaf, and his trigs went back up 🙂
But, with that said, I believe decaf does have a tiny bit of a caffeine left in it.
Thanks. I missed that.
This is a helpful post! Thanks for the article. (Just FYI, I think he means Thanksgiving 2017 for the start of his keto journey; 2018 would make a total of 3 or so months rather than 18. Not so important now, but down the road it may become confusing.)
Thanks for the correction! 🙂
EDIT: I confirmed with Sean that this was correct, and have since edited it. Thanks so much for pointing out the error!
My trigs went from 2.28mmol/L to 1.29mmol/L when I quit coffee. I also have (CYP1A2 – rs762551(A;C). I haven’t had a drop since and my last Trigs were 0.76mmol/L.
Interesting! Thanks for sharing 🙂
Maybe you meant Thanksgiving 2017?
Indeed he did – this has since been corrected 🙂
Thank you and very interesting! As a coffee drinker with high HDL and very Low Trigs, I shall follow suit by cutting down. I am also LMHR, I would love to do that experiment on myself but the needles YIKES!
It’s worth noting that it seems not everyone has this issue – I drink copious amounts of coffee and my triglycerides are almost always below 80 mg/dL
So it could be that it’s not something you’re affected by 🙂
If anyone has had 23 and me done, you can look u how you respond to caffeine, if it is the caffeine having an effect…
Do you mind elaborating on how to use 23 and me to determine response to caffeine?
‘Caffeine Consumption’ is listed as one of the ‘Wellness’ reports in the more expensive ‘Health & Ancestry’ version of 23andMe’s genetic tests.
The chart shows Sean switched to decaf and got a high score again so, despite there being a little caffeine in decaf still it seems likely there’s some other substance in coffee that affects him.
Obviously, everyone’s MMV. 🙂
If not a LMHR but Keto is the effect the same?
I think there is wide individual variation… some people seem to not be affected the same way.
I believe it has something to do with the coffee oil.
Is cafestol the issue? Any chance Sean would test this hypothesis by repeating trial using paper filters? PLEASE?
Check out test #7 – he used a filter and saw the same increase. 🙂
Hi I see filter in the graph but the commentary describes day 6 and 7 as drinking French press. Could you clarify with Sean which it was? If never refers to filter in the written text? Sorry if I am pedantic or missing something.
Hi Angela, Yes, I wrote that I drank filtered coffee for a week before Test #7 ,
3rd read thru now I see it … very interesting tks for work and sharing
Wonder if cold brewed coffee still has all the cafestol in it. Guess it would unless they filter it during the drip process?
Drip vs. Press
In a 2004 edition of his medical newsletter, Dr. John McDougall describes the relationship between coffee and triglycerides. He points out that two chemicals found in coffee, cafestol and kahweol, can significantly raise blood cholesterol and triglycerides. The impact of these chemical is largely nullified, however, by the use of a paper coffee filter. This means that standard drip coffee, as prepared in many homes, restaurants and coffee shops—and permitted by many cholesterol testing facilities—is generally safe. Unfiltered, boiled coffee, such as the coffee produced by a French press, contains the harmful chemical
Test #7 was using a filter – although I’m not sure if it was a paper filter.
Yes, before test 7 I drank Starbucks coffee for a week and I confirmed with their manager that they use paper filters
I find this interesting. I use a screened filter, not paper with a Keurig adding my own coffee not a pod. I drink almost all decaf, about 80% and add a bit of caffeinated. In my other cholesterol tests prior to LCHF, I had much lower triglycerides. My sister has a similar profile to me, but her triglycerides are lower. She drinks completely caffeinated coffee and multiple cups per day. Is is possible that the coffee causes some sort of vitamin deficiency?
For me, coffee seems to cause leg cramps.
For years, I would get daily cramps in the injured leg only (due to a pinched nerve from a lower spine injury). I would control the situation by taking magnesium, potassium, and salt (plenty on food but also take 1/2 tsp extra with water). The copious amounts of these supplements would keep the cramps at bay, but I couldn’t skip the supplements even for a day. The pain would be back. I used to also drink a lot of coffee (caffeinated, organic, made with every single possible method).
As an experiment, I stopped coffee a few days ago, and also stopped all the supplements at the same time (still consuming salt but just moderately on food). No leg cramps!! Not even a hint. It is as if coffee would leach out all the supplements I was taking. Now, the little magnesium I consume with food is enough to prevent the cramps.
FYI – 2 years on OMAD Keto (very low carb) or carnivore combination. I still (and always have) drink black tea daily (1-5 cups).
Any alcohol consumption during this period?
I have not had alcohol since 10/30/2018 🙂
Perhaps compare with a caffeine pill?
As a counterpoint, I drink 20 oz of very strong dark roast coffee and another 20 oz of very strong decaf dark roast coffee every morning. My fasting triglycerides are under 40, sometimes as low as 20. For me, low carb + daily intermittent fasting + high intensity strength training are likely other relevant factors.
Also…I haven’t done the genetic test, but based on the all-day caffeine boost I get from early AM consumption I’m pretty sure I’m a slow metabolizer. Even at lunch caffeine can keep me up at night.
Me too. I can only drink it in the morning. This is the case with dark chocolate too.
Yeah – it seems not everyone sees this effect (myself included). We’re not quite sure where the difference lies at this point though.
Another fascinating observation. Yes I drink masses of coffee but it doesn’t seem to relate to my trigs either. Looks like some people are hyperresponders and some aren’t. Mine are directly related to carb intake and indirectly related to something else, I know not what but it isn’t coffee.
I’d be curious to see if this also occurs with various teas…
Did he control for diet, exercise, length of fasting, and other factors that affect trigs?
I drink the same amount of coffee/green tea every day, and my trigs have varied from very low to high, and the main factor I can discern was the amount of fasting I did in the days/weeks prior to the test.
I’d prefer to see that he (1) at exactly the same things (2) at the same times and (3) had the exact same amount and type of exercise and at the same time, while having or not having coffee. Otherwise, as Dave’s own data shows, these numbers are so highly variable, that coffee may or may not be the cause.
Hi Bob, interested in what effect fasting had on your cholesterol panel, ie Total Cholesterol, HDL, LDL and Trig. I’m at 4 days fasted and wondering if I should test. Thanks, Debbie
Typically multi-day fasting before a blood draw results in higher total cholesterol, and LDL, lower HDL, and trigs higher earlier on and then this seems to normalize the further in you go.
I did a 7 day fast and posted my results here.
This is so helpful! I am not a coffee fan but negan drinking bullet proof coffee on Keto and saw my tri increase significantly recently. While I like the coffee, I prefer lower tri! Tp
Currently in a very strict Phase 1 of a 6 week Carnivore/caffeine experiment. I am using a protocol set up for me by Siobhan Huggins . 2 weeks steak/water, 2 weeks steak/coffee, 2 weeks steak/decaf. 6 consecutive weeks, full panels before, after, inbetween.
In 2017, whilst I participated in a 30 day steak challenge with my friend Donna Lordi, Dave and I observed an alarming jump in my triglycerides from 90 to 560. We discuss it in a 2KetoDudes podcast. We are replicating my conditions now. So steak-only again this time.
I’m very excited to see your upcoming data, Brenda. 🙂
Hi, is the data in? I’ve been on carnivore (beef, eggs, sardines / 0 carbs / 0 dairy) for 2 months and trigs went from 80 to 174 (13 hour fast). When I was on a more keto diet (meat, eggs, cheese, cream, butter, avocados) I always drank coffee (3 / 4 cups a day) and trigs were at a steady 80. My insulin requirements (I’m a T1 diabetic) have dropped in half during this carnivore diet. I now use a total of 6-7 insulin units a day, that’s including basal and boluses for meals. Thanks. Note: I swtched from regular drip coffee with paper filter to nespresso pods 4 days before this last test.
Hi – I have heard from someone else that they did see trigs go up from keto to carnivore from coffee. How has your HDL changed between the two? Is it the same, lower, higher? This can help provide a clue for what it might be.
Was there any update on this?
On Brenda’s results or Fernando’s?
I wonder if he ever tested his insulin levels. Coffee is very high in salicylates, and those sensitive to salicylates can produce excessive insulin (and excessive insulin can impact triglycerides). My husband, who was mostly carnivore, removed coffee, tea, and no longer has the occasional berries and avocados, and now has now broke through his weight loss plateau. Other symptoms have improved as well (though there was a bad withdrawal period similar to SSRI withdrawal). So I’d be curious as to any other tests done as well, and what the author’s daily diet looked like.
My fasted insulin levels were 2.6 on 10/05/2018 and 1.0 on 12/07/2018… my most recent tests
That is very interesting. I switched to caffeine free coffee. I was having full blown panic attacks and anxiety ! I tried to find info and all I found was it causes mild withdrawal. I was freaked out. I saw my doctor about it thinking I was going crazy. Didn’t want to “try” drugs. Is there any research out there that explains it ?
I believe I have seen where people have posted their lab results and Dave has made comments/recommendations. Is that something you are interested in and if so where would I post mine? Thank you
You could check out the facebook groups… Dave does not comment on every post but their are a lot of smart people in there. Also, if you participate in the group for a little while you begin to see patterns and will get up to speed quickly.
You can post it anywhere, especially as a comment on the Questions post. 🙂
. I love my cup of coffee in the morning.
I never did drink coffee or tea and I historically got my caffeine from Diet Coke. I have recently cut back on the Diet Coke and now I take a caffeine pill if I need a boost. Let,s face it, the reason coffee is so popular is because of the caffeine boost it gives. I have not done caffeine and trig testing. However, it is very likely that I did each of my blood tests food fasted for at least 14 hours and I would have had about 1 liter of Diet Coke each day before the blood draw in the afternoon and my trigs have always been under 50 mg/dL. I make this comment just to add support to the theory that it is not the caffeine that is raising you trigs.
Great info will try the no caffine days before my next bloodwork and see what happens to my Trigs.
It is really great to do some experiments on our self rather than just relying to established medical information. Well, there is not sense to reinvent the well but when in it comes to health, I guess it still is best that we really know our own health factors.
I have a bulks and bulks of puer cakes tea both green and black. When i finish it or rather give it away in the proper hands – i have no further intention to by new cakes coz i dunno how it affect my metabolism regardless even considering the fact chinese tea was a great deal and passion and big chunk of my culture for me for years, i even study chinese because of this. But i have even greater passion for my health. So no more tea, alas.
Alas, we didnt realy know if it something to do with caffeine itself or some solids in coffe-bean and random components of final product as well. So we need to know what happened if you drink just plain tablet caffeine to the purity of the expirement – too pity author didnt include this in his study.
Might have something to do with cafestol. Here’s one of the research done on cafestol and serum tryglycerides…………https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/73/1/45/4729662
Do we have any data on the effect of Tea on triglycerides? I’m giving up coffee for now anyway and I drink a lot of green and black tea during the day. Thanks
Not yet unfortunately 🙂
But, it’s worth noting that not everyone seems to see the effect from coffee in the first place. I drink plenty of coffee and my triglycerides are pretty much always <80 mg/dL.
If you do see the effect you are of course welcome to try switching to tea and reporting back with if it works. 🙂
Mostly curious if Remnants followed Trigs as well? Coffee vs none or even tea…
This is so interesting, as my cholesterol shot up quite a bit since last year, although everything else is WNL. A few months ago, I started drinking dark coffee from keurig maker (no paper filter). Will abstain a couple of days before my next blood test just to see if it makes a difference. Not very scientific, but still curious.
Have you experimented with niacin before a fasted blood test? I was wondering that it might be of use in the protocol.
Also I was wondering about flax seed oil – I have read that it it very ketogenic so I wondered if it might also be of use somewhere in the protocol?
(1) i’ve been in ketosis for 3 years; (2) I’ve consistently had high triglycerides (150-200 range) and fairly low HDL (less than 50); (3) I drink a ton of coffee (4) I have the same gene as Sean CYP1A2 ; therefore
(5) i’m giving up coffee and retesting. in fact, I just had a test while still on coffee, so I’ll have comparative results.
Only question is, my genetics company Vitagene says that the CYP1A2 gene indicates FAST caffeine metabolism, not slow.
“Caffeine metabolism is the rate at which your body processes caffeine.Based on your genetics, you eliminate caffeine from your body quickly. This means that you may feel the effects of caffeine for a shorter period of time and you may tend to drink more caffeinated beverages, such as coffee. Because caffeine doesn’t stay in your body for very long, you are at lower risk than slow metabolizers for some of the adverse effects such as hypertension.”
I find that to be true, I can (and do) drink coffee well into the afternoon with no sleeplessness. I also have low blood pressure and no indications of hypertension.
Here is their citation regarding the gene: https://www.geneticsmr.com/articles/6221
A real Sherlock Holmes mystery perhaps close to a solution … Love this website!
Sorry, I have the CYP1A2 A;A allele (fast caffein metabolism). Sean indicates he has A;C, which is the minor allele and slow. So that’s not an issue. Will check back after two weeks off of coffee …
Have you also checked through this list and see if any other possibilities apply (e.g. fasting too long before the test, liquid fats etc)? It also be helpful for trying to solve your mystery. 🙂
So a month with no coffee, tea, or caffeine and my triglycerides haven’t budged from my typical range (150-200). I’m going to stay in ketosis but drop to 25 grams or less of saturated fat. There’s some discussion that certain people (maybe 20%) just don’t do well with saturated fats. Something to do with PPAR and the liver, there may even relevant snps for this type of reaction to saturated fats. Discussion is here, minutes 23:00-33:00. https://peterattiamd.com/rhondapatrick/ Even Phinney and Volek admit 20% population have unfavorable triglyceride reaction while in ketosis. https://blog.virtahealth.com/blood-lipid-changes-with-ketogenic-diet/
Sorry to hear the coffee change didn’t help. Let us know if your most recent change does the fix for you.
It’s not totally disappointing. You helped me break a $10 a day addiction. I’m never going back to coffee. Thanks!
Oh man, you and I are a mirror of each other, just about. Same A;A, and points 1, 2 and 3 the same as well. I’m giving myself a 2 week period of no coffee and getting a lipid panel right before I meet with my dr at the beginning of December. Thanks for sharing the other links, more to look into if this doesn’t change anything. I’ve been full hot NSNG for 4 months, and losing substantial weight. No carb leaks that I can locate, and no real alternative sources of fats, just beef and pork fat, olive oil, butter, and perhaps too much cream/half and half in my coffee, but 2-3 20oz americanos each day….so we’ll see!
I started NSNG mid July, in early November I did a Lipid Panel and my tri’s were high, so as noted above, I switched to tea and did another panel on Tuesday. The results are as follows, with the 11/5 data first, and the 11/26 data listed second.
CHOL/HDLC Ratio 6.2 6.7
LDL 167 162
HDL 39 33
Triglycerides 188 140 (down from 202 July 2018 on the ‘yummy’ diet)
Total 240 221
Non-HDL 201 188
I did cut out a few of the cheesesteak meat lunches in that period, so it’s not a 1:1 comparison unfortunately.
I’ll start training again (had been running 5 days a week up until beginning of October, ran the half marathon and then laid low to recover a foot injury) to see how that affects the HDL and the ratio, and mix in more chicken and salmon and cod and test mid December, remaining off the coffee, then I’ll continue the food selections and reintroduce coffee for another two weeks and test again.
Thanks for the update on your troubleshooting! Just curious – has your HDL always been around that level, or is it recent?
Did you happen to get any other tests to help triangulate what it is, if it isn’t fully about the coffee? The olive oil and butter you mentioned prior may fit into the “liquid fat” category, perhaps…
Thank you for your research!!
I am in shock! I have had very high triglycerides for ten years, ever since having my son. My last reading before yesterday was from 2017-11 and was 11.58 mmol/L which I think equals 1025 mg/DL. This was down from my highest reading in 2010 after having my daughter, of 16.79 mmol/L or 1487 mg/DL! (I do not drink alcohol and this was on regular SAD diet. I have always preferred eating carbs over eating protein).
For the past 2 wks I cut out all coffee, and I had my blood work done yesterday. I was so excited to see that my triglycerides are down to 4.74 mmol/L or 419 mg/DL! I have not seen them below 789 mg/DL anytime in the past ten years!
Also, my ALT and AST numbers are much better.
I hate to give up coffee but that difference is remarkable!!
Thank you for suggesting that coffee could be an issue.
I am going to get serious about doing low carb. I am scared to do high fat with already having what are still high trigs. I was also thinking I should try to do some fasting.
Would love any feedback or suggestions you may have. I really want to start feeling better, even if I have to give up my beloved coffee!
Hi Cindy! So glad the post could be of help! That is really interesting that coffee had that much of an impact, that is probably the biggest drop I’ve seen. Beyond cutting coffee did you change anything else in that time period?
FWIW regarding low carb high fat and high triglycerides, a lot of people I see who go on low carb (including people who had trigs of 1200 – they were diabetic) saw their trigs fall drastically, possibly due to better metabolic health. Both people I know with levels that high previously now regularly have triglycerides under 100 mg/dL. 🙂
So you may actually see increased improvement after a few months on a low carb high fat diet, as it may reduce inflammation, etc, which can increase triglycerides as well.
If you can fast easily (even if only intermittent fasting, or eating in a restricted time window) I don’t see a reason not to, so long as you’re not on medication this could interfere with (although granted I’m not a doctor 🙂 ).
Good luck to you and hoping for continued improvement!
Thanks so much for this post. I have another intervention I am trying then after I test for that, I will eliminate coffee for 10 days and take another measurement.
One suggestion: It would be great if someone who has fixed their Trigs by Coffee elimination could take caffeine pills for 10 days and retest. That would show us whether caffeine alone is responsible for the results.
A popular request! I think it’s mostly just dependent on time/cost but hopefully someone does try it 🙂
Neither Dave nor I see the effect or we’d be testing it to death!
Posting back to show results:
I’m still using the cheapo basic lipid panel. Once I get things optimized better (and am much closer now), I’ll get the NMR instead.
Without coffee for 15 days. My trigs dropped from 145 to 79. This is the lowest they have ever been, so I owe you a debt of gratitude!
I do plan on maybe experimenting with other caffeine beverages and maybe try instant coffee and see what that does. I don’t miss the coffee very much, but it did give me a slightly sharper mental edge and it is supposed to reduce all cause mortality. Of course, that’s a correlation study across a population. Maybe for those of us where it messes with lipids, it’s increasing mortality risk.
HDL is still low at 38. I eat mostly low carb (I eat 3 slices of bread per day) and mostly vegetables, chicken and eggs. Any diet suggestions for this?
Hi Mark — If your HDL has been historically low pre-keto, then it may be genetically influenced. If it has just recently dropped to 38 from a much higher number, then I’d be curious about that.
I just retested and HDL is up to 45 so I won’t worry for now. The 38 was weird.
N=1 This time, I had coffee one day a few days before the test and the trigs were not elevated. I wanted to see if once per week would have an effect. That suggests that maybe it’s heavier or more chronic coffee intake that’s needed to raise trigs.
I am drinking lots of green tea in place of the coffee I used to drink so I’m still getting caffeine.
Posting back to say that I have been drinking lots of black tea and that does not seem to increase trigs like coffee does. I wish someone could find the method of action as I’d like to work around it and be able to drink coffee again!
Very interesting! People have been asking about that, so glad I now have an n=1 result to share back. Definitely if we discover anything about possible mechanisms we’ll share it back with the community.
Hello Siobhan and Dave!
Do you have any studies that show that having increased triglycerides from coffee consumption is a bad thing?
I was wondering if having increased triglycerides from coffee consumption may not be bad? If coffee is helping to kobolize the triglycerides and getting it out of body?
Wishful thinking from a coffee lover. 🙂
Hi – no we don’t. 🙂
It’s seems to be a relatively niche problem, and seems to pop up particularly with low carbers (and more so the low carb they go). I’ve not seen a study that has ever addressed it specifically in regards to risk either way. Everyone who experiences it has to decide for themselves what they’re comfortable with doing longterm. Likely if I experienced it, I would not be comfortable.
So I’m afraid we don’t know either way. The mechanism is another thing we’re not sure of, which makes it harder to guess.
Thank you so much for your response and opinion.
Thanks so much for the feedback Siobhan!
As for any other changes in that time period, the only thing I can think of is I have been more consistent with my walking and I normally take magnesium. I’m not on any meds. I was on hydrochlorothiazide for elevated bp for awhile but I’m off of it now. I read that it can make your TG even higher and I can’t believe my doc put me on it with already very high TG.
What amount of fasting (number of hours) do you think is necessary to bring down TG?
Also I was wondering if I should try adding the coffee back in for a week or so and test again to see if it makes a difference?
Wow! Yes, I’d probably want to add back the coffee and verify it wasn’t just a coincidence. It’d be pretty interesting if it wasn’t! How much coffee were you drinking before (and what kind?) Would love more info on this bit of mystery. 🙂
As for the fasting, I’ve heard that they have found great success at IDM with intermittent fasting (eating within a time window and not snacking/eating the rest of the day), so that could be an 8 hour eating window all the way down to a 1 hour window. I’ve also seen this reflected in some studies where they follow people who fast for religious reasons. Some people do longer (say 36 hours a few times a week) depending on what they’re comfortable with. Just make sure to only be 12-14 hours water fasted for any blood test you do, or it could impact the results.
I have found intermittent fasting was made largely easier by going low carb, but I’ve heard others say it helped just to stick to whole foods (e.g. no bread, pasta, etc) as it tended to make them hungrier between meals. Plenty of different things to try!
One thing you could also do if you wanted to see if low carb helped is to try it out for 4-6 months and then get bloodwork (there is an adaption period hence the longer time period). If it doesn’t, then assuming you were following it strictly, you know to try something else. Experimenting can always be helpful!
So i made my job. I had 2-weeks expirement with 6 total measurments of my TG levels durning acute Puer “tea cakes added phase”. I drank my best Puer Cackes both green and black to make sure i have a proper dosage of polyphenol and caffeine in me (and dont forget Puer tea its not just ordinar tea we drink – its very strong and have obvious effect). Result are surprising for me – i have ZERO effect on TG levels – just my regular keto only-water-numbers. I have my labs and everything but i dont think we need another seperate article on this topic and everyting – i bet we have a very few Puer tea lovers in our community.
So I started the carnivore deit back in June of 2018, and after a month on the deit I got my blood drawn. I was pretty freaked out cause my numbers seemed way off.
Total 271. Ldl 192. HDL. 31. Trig’s. 270. I did comment on another post and u told me to quit coffee for two weeks. Haha well it took me a couple months to finally get that to happen! I just got my blood drawn and got the results back today after a month of carnivore and no coffee and my numbers are total 258. Ldl. 197. HDL. 37. Trig’s 108. I feel like I am pretty happy with the results, any input or if these numbers should be better ? Also just a side note, I had insulin checked too and it was 5.6. I don’t know what ideal would be for that range either. Thanks for any feedback and thanks so much for the suggestions. I feel like u guys are saving lives.
It’s generally recommended to get bloodwork 4 months after a significant dietary change (I’ve heard in passing this includes going from keto to carnivore), so perhaps that was all it was. You can always re-introduce coffee later on to verify which it was as long as you avoid the other triglyceride-raising pitfalls.
As for insulin, I prefer to see it <10, ideally <5 so you're pretty close to that.
The only thing worth noting is the lower HDL - going back through previous results has it always been in the same sort of range?
They have always been kinda low August 14 SAD deit hdl39 trig’s 90
June 16 Sad deit hdl 37 trig’s 162
June 18 start of carnivore HDL 31 trig’s 270
Feb 19 HDL 37 trig’s 108
I don’t know how.to change that, I will continue carnivore and hopefully it will continue to improve.
Ah okay – I actually experienced the same thing. With SAD my HDL was low to mid 30s, and it has been slowly creeping up over the course of 2 1/2 years (now up to 54 at last test), so perhaps you’ll see the same. As I wasn’t sure, but because it was consistent over previous years with no sudden drops, I just tried to keep an even closer eye on other markers to verify the over all context was something I was comfortable with (in my case low inflammation, low insulin, low trigs, and other lab results coming back normal). I also opted to get a CAC for a baseline so I could check back in 5-8 years to have some longer term information. Perhaps that’s something that would help you as well?
I tried that one, they won’t let me do it out of pocket. I would need a doctor’s referral and I don’t have health insurance at the moment. That is on the to do list someday. Thanks for your help !
+1, Same observation, my trigs were stubborn though swinging between 580-120 and in january I had a check that gave trigs of 480. I suspected either this was due to a large fatty meal ~2500 cal the night before the test (~14 hour fasting), or it could be coffee. I let go of coffee for last month and had a check again, I also eat ~1400cal meal night before the check. To my surprise, the trigs went to 55, which I haven’t seen before, the lowest I went was 120.
I am slowest coffee metabolizer due to gene CYP1A2 C:C, I guess the coffee was the culprit.
Definitely sounds like it was the coffee – the high calories in the day before the test likely did impact the results, but afaik it doesn’t usually increase triglycerides to that level if you were water-fasted 12-14 hours before the blood draw. Glad you were able to figure out what was causing it though!
Thanks for this! I’m glad you included decaf coffee in your experiment.
I went low carb in Feb 2018 lost about 10 lbs then went keto in July 2018 and lost another 10+ lbs so down to a 25.5 bmi now. 1st lab done 01/18/19 (TC 377, LDL 286, HDL 57, TGL 169), even though I had already learned alot from Dave, Siobhan, Ivor, Phinney and the others I was still a little freaked and of course my doc was pressing hard for a statin. I thought this coffee hypothesis might apply to me so I tried it by eliminating all coffee and caffeine for 6+ weeks and I made a significant effort to increase my omega 3’s and moderately reduced my red meat intake. I also moderately increased my physical activity. 2nd lab done 03/15/19 (TC 376, LDL 289, HDL 66, TGL 92). Now my trig/hdl ratio is much better but I’m still trying to get a grasp on my overall risk. In between these two labs (02/27/19) I had an advanced panel done:
LDL Particle #: 2074
Kind of funny but sad but when I asked the doc for the advanced panel tests he was pretty much unaware of them and apparently this was the first time he had ever ordered them (I actually had to get him the test codes from Quest Diagnostics website) and he runs a very busy practice here in the Corona area.
Anyways it seems pretty obvious that the coffee and/or caffeine was spiking my trigs big time.
Lastly, I just want to say thanks to Siobhan and Dave for taking the time and making the effort to do what you do!
I’d really be interested in your thoughts on my numbers.
Not much to say. Your last panel is actually pretty close to how mine looks on keto! All your non-lipid numbers look good. And of course, you have given us yet one more data point on coffee. Thanks!
I drink at least 30 cups of coffee each day, and I have done so for the past 2 years. My most recent blood test on 19 March 2019 measured my triglycerides at 34 mg/dL and HDL was 84 mg/dL and ApoB was 56 mg/dL. I eat a strict keto diet with carb intake of no more than 20-30g/day.
Yeah — once again proving the individuality of it!
Dave F, I find your experiments interesting. I see you concentrate the Keto diet just on the lipid profiles without pointing out the effects on other organs and metabolic functions. What about showing glucose, liver enzymes, kidney function, etc. Another concern I have is your fats and carbs are dead foods. What about live sugars like you get from fruits and live oils you get from extra virgin olive oil, avocado oils, coconut oil, etc that are added to the meal rather than heated up. Live sugars and oils are high energy vs the low energy dead stuff your photos present such as grains, processed meats, and fried meat.
Thanks for your thoughts, David. I track a very large spectrum of tests with each new experiment. Not just glucose, liver enzymes, kidney — but even hormones, inflammatory markers, etc.
Much of the foods I eat are for experiments, but I try to avoid lots of processed oils.
Thanks Dave. I try to consume good sugars from fruit, good oils, and proteins from fatty fish. I am not completely keto, but would like to hear more about the other metabolic and hormone changes you are seeing. Such as a particular hormone shifted from X to Y.
Dramatic results for me too. LCHF since 12/5/2018, switched from coffee to tea on 4/6/2019, so this represents only six days with no coffee. I have the slow caffeine metabolism genetics. I did drink black coffee on the mornings of my blood tests except for this latest one.
date trig hdl ldl total remnant
12/5/2018 129 48 197 271 26
12/19/2018 142 54 207 289 28
1/28/2019 134 55 230 312 27
3/29/2019 129 55 218 299 26
4/12/2019 50 72 166 248 10
That is amazing Don! Not only the trig, but it seems like everything else is better! I’m a coffee guy, and I have blood work coming up in a few weeks! I’m going to stop coffee for at least a week before the test. I don’t have a clue about my coffee-DNA, but I’m not taking any chances!
I’m amazed too. Evidently coffee negated the gains I otherwise made via diet. (BTW I was wrong about slow caffeine metabolism. The relevant SNP is rs762551(A;C), normal caffeine metabolism.) What’s intriguing is that coffee never seems to prove to be a big risk factor, so presumably my condition is either a) rare or b) benign. Dave’s experience would seem to disprove a), and yet everything we know says that high triglyceride levels and remnant cholesterol are bad. Very puzzling. There would appear to be an important paper in this area. Good luck on your next lipid panel!
It actually worked for me on my last test. I had read about the coffee effect before my last panel and took a break from coffee. On 2/5/2019 and I got the best trig score ever.
I would be curious to know what your prior results would have been like if you had been water-only fasted for the 12-14 hours before the blood draw (in other words no coffee). I’ve seen a couple cases of coffee on the morning of the draw impacting the results.
I definitely do like the most recent one better than the previous ones however, if it were my own results. 🙂
I always go in first thing in the morning, and in at least one case I literally brought the coffee into LabCorp with me. So it never had much time to act. Protip: I produced this green bilious feces for a few days immediately after quitting coffee. You’re welcome, people.
Thanks for that tidbit. 🙂 My appointment is for next weekend, so I stopped all coffee intake yesterday. I’m trying some hot Inka drink again, and it’s so bad that I’m not having any withdrawal from coffee. I’m trying to eat low carb, and Inka is made from grain. So, I’m not having very much of it.
What kinda tea? My Trigs go nuts on coffee as well and I was thinking about trying the tea route. I have a Keurig now that just collects dust so I’m not sure if you have found tea k-cups or just the normal bag soak? I am interested to hear what kind of tea you are drinking since getting your lowest Trig score.
In January I took a blood test after being on a low carb diet for 6 months and losing 23 pounds. I was excited to get my results. I was stunned to have high Triglycerides “299”. I expected the high LDL Cholesterol “133”.
I read this article and the results made sense, but I have never had a drink of coffee in my life. But I did have two very large Diet Mt. Dew’s the two days previous. I decided to go a month without drinking soda and test again. In April, I had a second test. Triglycerides dropped to “121”! The LDL went up to “148”, but I am not surprised because I am still on the low carb diet.
I am curious to know if anyone else has seen their Triglycerides jump from diet drinks with large amounts of caffeine? I probably had 48 ounces the two days prior to the first test.
Interesting! I have not heard of diet drinks doing that before.
Have you seen this post? For that first test, were you 12-14 hours water only fasted? Do any of the other possibilities apply?
I did water fast for 12 to 14 hours before both tests. I want to try again in a few months if I can convince my doctor to approve another blood test.
I would agree, I’d be interested to see what a re-test yields. What was your HDL before and after?
Thanks for the info I had the same results with coffee. I nearly quit Carnivore before I read this thread and tested it for myself. Pretty crazy actually. I am a carrier of the APOE4 gene and would like to know if the author does as well?? I guess my coffee days are over, although I did finish the grounds I had left in the house. I will miss it….
March 2nd – Trigs: 176 (full board coffee)
March 19th – Trigs: 141 (no coffee little over 2 weeks)
April 2nd – Trigs: 171 (back on coffee)
May 6th – Trigs: 52 (no coffee for 30 days)
Wow! Quite the change! Thanks for sharing the data back!
For me, coffee isn’t a factor, but coconut oil is, if used in bullet proof coffee. I have cut back significantly on CO since realizing this.
Yup. Removing liquid/refined forms of fat is on our list of troubleshooting steps for high triglycerides on low carb, outlined here. 🙂
I’ve recently gotten some lipid panel results for an annual physical that I know my primary doc will give me a lecture about. I’ve been LCHF for about 6 weeks. The first set of numbers are from a year ago on a Standard diet with lots of carbs. The second set is on low carb diet.
Labs below are from 5/14/18 to 5/24/19:
Total Chol 212 —> 291
HDL 63 —> 86
LDL 135 —> 193
Trig 51 —> 39
After reading this blog and other info regarding cholesterol results on low carb diets, I’m not that worried… but I’m not NOT worried. For reference, I’m 5’6” 144 lbs female 28% body fat according to DEXA scan. What I AM worried about is my blood work coming up for disability insurance. I’d like to get as normal lipids for this as possible ASAP! I have scheduled lipid testing for this Saturday via Request A Test to see if I can do the Feldman Protocol this week to hack these numbers before my real blood work for insurance. I’ll be happy to report back afterward.
My questions are:
1) I love my coffee but have read on this blog that maybe I should quit before my lipid panel. Is 2 weeks what you recommend?
2) What affect does dairy have on lipids? Any chance it could cause inflammation and make my lipids look worse? I don’t have major GI issues from dairy and enjoy eating it but I’m Asian and wonder if it’s making my cholesterol look bad?
3) What’s the final word on the role of fasting before lipid testing? If my aim is to lower my LDL as much as possible, besides the 12-14 hours fast before blood draw, do you recommend any extended fasting before beginning the high calorie high fat days per Feldman protocol?
4) If I do 5 days of high fat high calorie, Will my LDL go even lower? I’m willing to try if 2 more days will yield even better results.
5) Any data regarding the role of menstrual cycle on lipids? I saw somewhere better to test during ovulation?
Basically, I’m going for high yield results for this practice Feldman protocol this week with blood draw Saturday and would love any tips you have, especially as a female. Thanks I’m advance!
Hi.. apologies for the late reply on this. The coffee is generally regarding triglycerides. Since your triglycerides are already low, I doubt removing coffee would do much. Just make sure (for future reference) to only do water for 12-14 hours before the blood draw.
I’ve not seen any impact of dairy in particular on my lipids or inflammation that I’ve noticed. It could possibly do this for some people, generally inflammation tends to decrease HDL and increase triglycerides. You could always go some time without and see if it makes any difference for you though.
Fasting for multiple days (over 24 hours) will generally increase LDL, especially in lean people, possibly because you’re relying more on fat from storage. Just eat normally, and regularly, and then go for the three day protocol and that should work if you’re trying to see if you can lower LDL in general.
LDL generally follows a 3 day pattern, so probably not. If you were getting an NMR (which looks at particle count) you would do the 5 day because the particle count seems to track with a 3 day window plus 2 day gap (five days total).
I’ve not noticed anything regarding my lipids and ovulation, no. I’ve not specifically looked, but I’ve tested at different times throughout my cycle over the course of multiple experiments and nothing big has stood out to me.
Anyone reporting blood glucose response to coffee?
I am generally sticking to a LCHF diet and have been watching my blood sugars. The other morning I had 3 cups (french press, with a little milk), and felt a bit wobbly…checked my sugars and they were at 131, very high for me. I repeated again this morning. When I woke up, 94, then after two coffees (my normal dose), shot up again to over 130. No breakfast either time as I seldom eat before lunch. So my question is, aside from the triglycerides, has anyone noticed a significant blood sugar response to coffee? I am going to try black coffee, black tea, and plain water over the next few days. Quite alarming. PS I went to the gym then a protein shake with plain yogurt, and an hour after that the blood sugars were at a happy 81.
I’ve heard from a type 1 diabetic, in passing, that a high amount of coffee resulted in a glucose response. I’ve not seen anything in myself with a single cup of french press coffee, but it may vary depending on the individual and the amount.
I have been lchf for almost 14 months, lost 65 pounds, at a BMI of 23, and it has been a transformative experience. Unfortunately, I have the coffee sensitivity which causes a 4-fold increase in triglycerides.
Dave has noticed that this coffee sensitivity tends to exist in people who have relatively high HDL, even with high triglycerides. Would He consider analyzing the NHANES data to measure the mortality of the high HDL, high triglycerides folks (perhaps with some stratification for LDL values?)
I miss coffee more than I miss any carbohydrate. I would appreciate seeing data that hones in on this “subtype.”
Interesting idea! I’m not sure if the coffee sensitivity would show up in the general population (it seems to show up in people when they go low carb), but I will pass this idea on. One potential problem is high HDL + high trigs could also be reflecting something like chronic heavy alcohol use, which would definitely skew the data towards higher mortality. But, perhaps worth looking into regardless.
Thank you for passing on the idea!
Short question, guys. Coffee influence occurs only on trigs? Anyone related changes on LDL?
Trig levels can influence calculated LDL, so it’s likely both in that case. I’m not sure I’ve seen data from someone with the sensitivity who got direct LDL.
Is the case the same with instant coffee, I drink about 5 cups a day.
My last trig was 0.7 mmol/l down from 1.4 after going low carb.
I wonder from where the triglys come into bloodstream if otherwise you eat as before? And where do they go? Not from coffee I suppose? Adipose tissue ? Liver ?