Coffee-making method may affect cholesterol

People's Pharmacy

Health & Fitness

January 25, 2004|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon | Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon,King Features Syndicate

I use a French press coffee maker, which in my opinion makes a superior cup of coffee.

A friend said that brewing coffee this way will raise my cholesterol, so I should pour the coffee through a paper filter (like the ones in drip coffeepots).

This seems silly, but my cholesterol is a little high. Would this make a difference?

The way coffee is brewed might affect cholesterol levels. After debating this issue for decades, scientists have concluded that coffee made in a percolator or with grounds in a pot (cowboy-style) contains cholesterol-raising compounds.

The French press brewing technique also yields coffee that might raise bad LDL cholesterol (Journal of Internal Medicine, September 2000). Paper filters appear to trap some of the cholesterol-raising culprits when coffee is dripped, but we don't know if putting your coffee through a filter after it is brewed will solve the problem.

What is the miracle of Listerine? Twenty years ago, I got shingles. I had a blistery rash, and it really hurt.

My doctor told me to rub Listerine on it. The itching stopped, the rash disappeared, and the pain went away for good.

I also had gums that bled every time I brushed my teeth. The dentist told me to dip my toothbrush in Listerine and apply it to my gums after each brushing. The problem vanished, and I haven't had trouble since.

Listerine contains a number of herbal extracts (thymol, eucalyptol, menthol, methyl salicylate) in an alcohol solution. There are no studies to suggest that such ingredients could help relieve shingles or speed healing from gum disease. Nevertheless, it is not inconceivable that one or more of the oils in Listerine might be beneficial for such conditions.

For years, I have read your column about how grapefruit affects medicines. I thought it was interesting, but it didn't apply to me. Then I had angioplasty and started taking Coumadin to prevent blood clots and Zocor to lower cholesterol.

My doctor told me to stay away from green leafy vegetables while on Coumadin, and my pharmacist mentioned something about a problem with cranberry juice. She also warned me against drinking grapefruit juice because of Zocor. This is all very confusing.

The issue of Coumadin and its interactions with food is complicated indeed. Many foods, including green vegetables, contain vitamin K. This vitamin reduces the effectiveness of the anticoagulant.

You might be able to keep eating healthful vegetables as long as you consume about the same amount of vitamin K each day. The dose of Coumadin can be adjusted for your diet.

The warning on cranberry juice is new. British drug authorities report that this interaction is linked to several serious interactions, including a few deaths from bleeding. You should avoid cranberry juice while on the blood thinner.

Grapefruit might interact with Zocor. This could increase the risk of dangerousside effects.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019, or e-mail them from their Web site, www.peoplespharmacy.org.

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