Coffee and even decaffeinated may support liver health, study finds
Could drinking a few cups of coffee every day halve your risk of dying from liver disease? According to a new study, published on June 22 in BMC Public Health, people who regularly consumed coffee, whether caffeinated or not, were less likely to develop chronic liver disease and chronic fatty liver disease, and had a lower risk of dying from liver disease, compared to to those who did not drink coffee.
For most of us, this is good news: according to the National Coffee Association62% of Americans drink coffee every day, and the average coffee drinker consumes just over three cups a day. Chronic liver disease affects 4.5 million American adults, according to the Centers for Disaster Control and Prevention.
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The risk reduction has been observed on different types of coffee, such as instant, ground and decaffeinated coffee, according to Oliver Kennedy, Ph.D., professor at the University of Southampton in England and lead author of the study. These benefits may mean that coffee could be an easily accessible preventative treatment for chronic liver disease, he says.
Consuming more coffee (up to 4 cups) provided the greatest benefit
Using data from UK Biobank, a nonprofit health database, researchers followed 494,585 participants who provided initial information on the amount of coffee consumed. The median age of the subjects was 58 years, 54.5% of the participants were female and 94% were Caucasian.
People were followed for a median of 10.7 years and monitored for the development of chronic liver disease and related liver conditions.
Out of the group, 78 percent (384,818) of participants were coffee drinkers and drank an average of two cups of coffee per day; 22 percent (109,767) did not drink any type of coffee. Among coffee drinkers, 55 percent drank instant coffee, 23 percent drank ground coffee (including espresso), and 19 percent drank decaffeinated coffee.
During the study period, there were 3,600 cases of chronic liver disease, including 301 deaths. There have been 5,439 cases of chronic liver disease or steatosis, also known as fatty liver disease, which is an accumulation of fat in the liver, and 184 cases of hepatocellular carcinoma, a type of liver cancer.
To isolate the impact of coffee on liver disease, the researchers controlled for several factors, including smoking, diabetes, body mass index (BMI), ethnicity, alcohol consumption, and score. Townsend Deprivation, which helps determine socioeconomic status. UK Biobank assigned a Townsend Deprivation Score to each participant based on their postcode and average level of employment, home and car ownership, and household overcrowding.
Compared to non-coffee drinkers, coffee drinkers had a 21% reduced risk of chronic liver disease, a 20% reduced risk of chronic liver disease or fatty liver disease, and a 49% reduced risk of death from disease. chronic hepatic.
Any type of coffee was associated with a reduced risk of developing and dying from chronic liver disease compared to not drinking coffee, with the greatest benefit seen by people who drank and consumed ground coffee. three to four cups a day.
Results confirm previous studies on the benefits of coffee for liver health
“This research adds strength to what previous studies have found regarding the benefits of coffee for liver health,” says Omar Massoud, MD, Ph.D., the head of the hepatology section of the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. Dr Massoud was not involved in the new research.
An earlier study, published in Gastroenterology, found that, compared to non-coffee drinkers, people who drank two to three cups of coffee per day had a 38% reduced risk of death from liver cancer and a 46% reduced risk of death from disease chronic liver; those numbers jumped to 41 percent and 71 percent, respectively, among people who drank four or more cups a day.
Another earlier study looking at coffee consumption and liver disease, published in the Internal Medicine Archives, also found a reduced risk of liver disease in coffee drinkers, and the researchers concluded that coffee had a protective effect against cirrhosis, especially alcoholic cirrhosis.
In this study, researchers found that coffee consumption was linked to a lower prevalence of elevated levels of aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and alanine aminotransferase (ALT). These enzymes are released into the bloodstream when the liver is damaged and are associated with liver damage and disease, according to MedlinePlus.
The latest study, while strong, has several limitations that need to be taken into account, Massoud says. Investigators asked about coffee consumption only at the start of the study, so participants’ coffee drinking habits may have changed during the study and follow-up. Further, he says, “although investigators controlled for several factors, including BMI, there might be factors that influenced the results that they did not take into account. “
The authors acknowledge that the results were not adjusted for waist circumference, which may be related to metabolic syndrome independent of BMI.
What could be behind the protective effect of coffee on the liver?
“There are a variety of different chemical compounds in coffee that may be responsible for the protective effect,” says Dr. Kennedy.
Two of these compounds, cafestol and kahweol, are collectively referred to as diterpenes. These fat-soluble compounds appear at relatively high concentrations in French press coffee and espresso.
Chlorogenic acid (CGA), a kind of polyphenol or herbal compound found in coffee, is said to have antioxidant properties. These acids can help regulate glucose in the liver and small intestine, according to ScienceDirect.
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More research needed to confirm results on coffee and liver health
Importantly, the study did not show that coffee resulted in a reduced risk of liver disease, Kennedy says. “There may be other attributes of coffee drinkers that explain the protective effect against liver disease, although we have adjusted for major known risk factors. Ideally, we would need a randomized controlled trial in order to make specific recommendations, ”he says.
Massoud said the gold standard would be a study in which certain people were randomly assigned to drink coffee or not to drink coffee and they would be observed and evaluated over a long period of time. “Ideally, this would also be ‘double-blind’, which would mean that neither the participants nor the researchers would know who was drinking coffee and who was not, which would be difficult to achieve,” he says.
It might be more feasible to test a capsule containing the compounds found in coffee against a placebo, says Massoud.
Should People Increase Their Coffee Consumption For Liver Health?
“Even though the cause and effect are not established in this study, there have been other studies that have confirmed the same point,” explains Massoud. Coffee appears to have a protective effect against liver disease, and people who drink it regularly tend to have less liver disease.
Considering that coffee is safe, that many people drink normally, and has other benefits, it is probably good health practice to drink more, unless you consume it. already three or four cups a day, says Massoud. Just be aware that coffee is not a medicine, and if you are sensitive to caffeine (even decaffeinated can contain traces) you may want to skip the java or at least see your doctor to change your diet, especially if you have a history of liver problems.