For adults, cholesterol tests, also known as a lipid panel, are commonly carried out as the result of a new patient intake procedure or as a regular routine every three or five years. Cholesterol tests come with an order from your doctor to fast for 8-12 hours beforehand, but many patients wonder about the definition of fasting. A common question among avid caffeine consumers on the morning of their visit is: can I drink black coffee before a cholesterol test?
It’s important to ask your doctor about any exemptions and requirements for your situation. However, these general guidelines apply to most people whose doctors have ordered a cholesterol test and are wondering if they can still get their morning coffee fix.
Why Do Doctors Order Fasting?
For tests that are impacted by your metabolism, which is the process through which your body turns food and drink into energy, eating and drinking beforehand can alter the results. For a lipid panel, also known as a cholesterol test, consuming food and beverages could change the readout of the test’s markers, especially for triglycerides.
While new research is changing the way we view the importance of fasting for cholesterol tests, some people receiving some tests will always need to fast, so doctors keep the order uniform for all patients. For instance, a meal that is high in calories may cause your triglycerides to become elevated, which can alter the ratio of LDL in the test. This means when doctors try to evaluate your ratio of “good” (HDL) to “bad” (LDL) cholesterol, the numbers may not be accurate representations of your body’s normal state.
Since cholesterol tests evaluate your risk for heart disease, stroke, endocrine system disorders, and more, it’s important to follow your doctor’s orders to make your results are as accurate as possible.
What Does Fasting Include?
Fasting for 8-12 hours before a cholesterol test is a guideline designed to save you time by giving you accurate results during your first test. For a cholesterol test, fasting does not include water, as it might for an even more sensitive test. However, any calorie-rich foods or drinks could disrupt your triglyceride levels, leading to inaccurate results.
What About Coffee?
Black coffee is probably fine for most patients on the morning of a cholesterol test. One cup of coffee will not likely affect your test results by more than a couple of points of total cholesterol, measured in mg/dL, at most. You can even tell your doctor that you drank coffee that morning so that they can interpret your results appropriately.
The best thing to do is ask your doctor when they order the test whether you can have coffee in the morning. For some patients whose blood sugar levels are more susceptible to changes and harder to control (sometimes referred to as “brittle diabetes”), a cup of coffee on the morning of a cholesterol test may make a bigger difference than it would to someone else.
Notice that we made a distinction by saying “black coffee.” The more you add to your morning coffee, including sugar, creamer, flavoring, and anything else, the more likely it will change your results on the morning of your cholesterol test. Additives add calories and alter your blood sugar levels, which will further skew the results of your triglycerides and skew the ratios that your doctor will look for as a measure of your cardiovascular risk factors.
In short: a cup of black coffee on the morning of your cholesterol test is probably fine. A cup of coffee with sugar and cream is much less fine and could alter your results.
Doctors order tests to rule out diseases and assess risk factors. Since cholesterol levels are indicative of cardiovascular risk factors, they are an important tool in your doctor’s arsenal to provide you with the best possible care. This is why making sure that you follow their guidelines, including fasting, is at the top of your to-do list on test day. Thankfully, it doesn’t look like the caffeine hounds out there will have to give up their morning coffee as a result. Just make sure to drink it straight.
Speedy Sticks is a mobile concierge phlebotomy service that provides at-home blood draws and on-site diagnostic/health screenings for businesses and individuals. One of these tests is a Lipid Panel which can be performed by one of our specialists. Book an appointment today to find out your cholesterol levels.
*This content is for informational purposes only and is not meant to replace consulting with a healthcare professional. Please consult with your primary care physician or healthcare provider before engaging in any services offered by Speedy Sticks.
**These are approximations, and experts disagree on some values. Consult your healthcare provider for recommendations suitable for you. It is also important to ensure the levels are given in the same measurements, such as mg/dL, etc.