Greek coffee

The traditional coffee consumed in Greece, called ellinkos (the Greek), outside of Greece commonly known as Turkish or Arab coffee, may be good for the heart and one of the secrets of long life in Greeks, according to a new study.

The research comes from a larger study known as the Ikaria Study conducted by Greek researchers from the University of Athens where the investigated the lifestyle of the inhabitants of the Greek island of Ikaria who have one of the higest longevity rates in the world. One of the characteristics is that they drink coffee every day. The Greek researchers wanted to find out whether the elderly population’s coffee drinking had an effect on their health. In particular, the researchers investigated links between coffee-drinking habits and the subjects’ endothelial function. The endothelial is a group of cells that line the interior of blood vessels. When these cells are not functioning properly, it may lead to atherosclerosis-hardening of the arteries.

The study which was published in the journal Vascular Medicine, included 142 elderly people, aged 66–91 years old from the Ikaria Study. Coffee consumption was evaluated based on a food frequency questionnaire and was categorized as ‘low’ consumers (< 200 ml (6,5 oz)/day), ‘moderate’ (200–450 ml (6,5-15 oz)/day), or ‘high’ (> 450 ml (15 oz)/day).

After adjusting for age, sex, weight/height, smoking habits, the presence of hypertension, diabetes mellitus, hypercholesterolemia and cardiovascular disease,  the results showed that the higher consumption of coffee was associated with better endothelial function and the individuals who drank mainly boiled Greek coffee had better endothelial function than those who consumed other types of coffee.

The researchers note that although all types of coffee are a source of antioxidants, Greek coffee in particular contains much higher amounts of cafestol and kahweol, substances that appear to have ant-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. In addition Greek style coffee has moderate caffeine levels. A few years ago, a similar Greek study about Greek coffee found that  consumption of Greek coffee improved the elasticity of arteries in individuals with high blood pressure.

Now, I have to say that coffee in Greece is a big deal. Everything starts with a cup of coffee. It is a whole culture, a tradition. The act of drinking coffee, serving and making coffee is an art.

Click here to read how I make my beloved Greek coffee (I am good at it, so I’m told).

Photo by Olive Tomato

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  1. I agree with Maria. As much as I like greek coffe, I think because it’s boiled and not going through a filter there is more cholesterol that goes into the system than a filtered coffee. I have high cholesterol, and I avoid greek coffee as much as I can. And the cafeine, gives me heart palpitations (and I’m greek to begin with). I heard that a lot of doctors in greece say that greek coffee is good for you. But I would avoid it due to high concentrated cafeine and high cholesterol levels.

    1. Hello Mary,
      Thank you for your comment and concerns. Coffee whether filtered or unfiltered does not contain any cholesterol. In addition, Greek coffee has between 50-70% less caffeine then regular filtered coffee and espresso. So essentially not only does it have potentially some antioxidants that can protect from chronic disease it also has lower levels of caffeine then other types of coffee making it a good choice. Source for nutrition information: USDA

      1. Hello Elena. Very interesting article. However, as Mary suggested, I have known that the coffee does contain substitutes that cause to raise the LDL level. I couldn’t find the source of my information but I found this article for you to read:) Please check it out. I believe the people with cholesterol condition should talk with their Doctors before trying greek style coffee.

      2. Thank you Sayuri for the link. As I mentioned above these substances have a beneficial effect as they contain certain antioxidants and it is not clear how these substances are metabolized in the body.

      3. PeterScott says:

        It is clear that Cafestol in unfiltered coffee, is one of the most potent LDL (AKA Bad Cholesterol) increasing chemicals known.

        Studies have also zeroed in on it’s method of action which ultimately reduces the effects of three genes in the liver that are involved cholesterol regulation.

        This might be fine if you live in a small village eating a more traditional diet, with good cholesterol levels as a starting point.

        It would be more prudent for anyone with high or even borderline cholesterol, eating a typical western diet, to drink Filter coffee. Filter coffee still has the majority of anti-oxidants, just with greatly reduced levels of LDL raising Cafestol.

  2. Could you put up your coffee recipe? I’m anxious to try it! 🙂 Can I buy he necessary coffee at krogers or walmart?

  3. I have read recently that greek or turkish coffie’s cafestol and kahweol substances are potent stimulators of LDL cholesterol levels. What if a person has high cholesterol levels should greek coffie be avoided?

    1. Maria, Yes cafestol and kahweol are present in unfiltered coffee, but it is not yet clear how they are metabolized in the body. They do however have anticancer effects. It needs to be noted that there is little research that shows that coffee increases the risk of disease while there are several studies that show that it has a protective effect.