A study involving nearly 500,000 people finds that drinking coffee significantly lowers the risk of developing liver disease.
The health benefit applies to all kinds of coffee, including caffeinated, decaffeinated, ground, and instant coffee.
The study finds that drinking 3–4 cups per day provides the greatest benefit.
For many, coffee is their favorite—some might say indispensable—part of each day. Yet there is also a constant stream of often contradictory research offering evidence for both coffee’s benefits and risks.
A large new study has now found that coffee of all kinds lowers the risk of chronic liver disease, fatty liver disease, liver cancer, and death from chronic liver disease.
The greatest benefit is derived from drinking 3–4 cups of coffee, even decaffeinated, per day. Coffee from grounds is slightly more beneficial than instant coffee.
The study, from researchers at the Universities of Southampton and Edinburgh in the United Kingdom, appears in the journal BMC Public Health.
Liver disease and a welcome study
Worldwide, liver disease causes 2 million deaths annually, with 1 million people dying from complications of cirrhosis and another from viral hepatitis and hepatocellular carcinoma.
According to the study, the area most profoundly affected by liver disease is sub-Saharan Africa. Central and South America, Eastern Europe, and Southeast Asia follow.
Liver disease risk factors include consuming alcohol, having overweight, and having diabetes.
Cleveland Clinic’s transplant hepatologist Dr. Talal Adhami called the study “absolutely amazing” thanks to its scope.
“There have been smaller studies, and there was an association [between liver health and coffee], but this study actually drew a much bigger association just from the sheer number of patients,” he said.
Compared with the participants who did not consume coffee, coffee drinkers’ risk of chronic liver disease was 21% lower.
They also had a 19% reduced risk of developing chronic liver or fatty liver disease, and they lowered their risk of hepatocellular carcinoma by 21%. Coffee drinkers were also 49% less likely to die from liver disease.
For people who drank coffee from ground beans, the reduction in risk was even greater.
Their risk of developing either chronic liver disease or chronic liver or fatty liver disease was reduced by 35%, of developing hepatocellular carcinoma — by 34%, and of dying of liver disease — by 61%.
Dr. Adhami explained that “coffee actually can help in early stages of liver disease,” as the liver becomes inflamed in response to a pathogen.
“It can also affect the scarring tissue process, and later on in cirrhosis patients or patients with advanced scarred tissue who are prone to have primary cancer of the liver. Coffee is helpful at that level too,” he added.
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