Drinking coffee reduces the risk of liver disease
Go ahead and have that second, third – or even fourth – cup of coffee, it really is good for you! A new large-scale study – consisting of nearly a half million people – has found that coffee lowers the risk of developing chronic liver disease, fatty liver disease, liver cancer, and death from chronic liver disease.
According to the study, published in the journal BMC Public Health in June, the greatest benefit is derived from drinking three to four cups of coffee, even decaffeinated, per day. And while all kinds of coffee are favourable, coffee from ground beans was found to be slightly more beneficial than instant coffee.
Chronic liver disease (CLD) accounts for approximately two million deaths per year worldwide. CLD affliction rates are the highest in low to middle-income countries where treatment options are also limited. Sub-Saharan Africa is the region that is most affected followed by Central and South America, Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia.
Coffee consumption has been linked with lower rates of CLD, but little is known about the effects of different coffee types, which vary in chemical composition. This study aimed to investigate associations of coffee consumption, including decaffeinated, instant and ground coffee, with chronic liver disease outcomes.
Researchers at the Universities of Southampton and Edinburgh in the United Kingdom analysed the UK Biobank health data of 494,585 people, following them for an average of 10.7 years.
Of the participants, both men and women ages 40–69, 384,818 were coffee drinkers, and 109,767 were not, served as the study’s control group. Coffee drinkers consumed caffeinated, decaffeinated, ground, and instant coffee.
During the study period, the sample contained 3,600 diagnoses of chronic liver disease, 5,439 cases of chronic liver disease or fatty liver disease, and 184 cases of hepatocellular carcinoma. There were 301 deaths from chronic liver disease.
Compared with the participants who did not consume coffee, coffee drinkers’ risk of chronic liver disease was 21 per cent lower. They also had a 19 per cent reduced risk of developing chronic liver or fatty liver disease, and they lowered their risk of hepatocellular carcinoma by 21 per cent. Coffee drinkers were also 49 per cent 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 per cent, and of dying of liver disease — by 61 per cent.
The researchers concluded that all types of coffee are protective against CLD, which is significant given the increasing incidence of CLD worldwide and the potential of coffee as an intervention to prevent CLD onset or progression. However, they noted that further work is needed to replicate these findings using more robust methods (such as using a more powerful set of genetic variants) to estimate coffee consumption than was previously available.
This study seems more promising to me than many others I have reviewed given the sheer size – nearly 500,00 participants – the age range which spanned Gen Xers to baby boomers, the length of time (10+ years), the number of coffee consumers — 78% were regular coffee drinkers (median consumption of two cups each day), and from what I infer, both clinical and observational (as opposed to so many coffee studies that are purely observational).
And although we are bombarded with myriad contradictory research evidencing both the benefits and risks of drinking coffee, for the moment, coffee drinkers can relish the new findings and enjoy their daily cup (well, cups as apparently, the more the better…) of java!
- Vanessa L Facenda, editor, Tea & Coffee Trade Journal.
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